So today Blizzard finally takes action against MMO-Champion for posting Alpha content. I have to say that I fully support their decision to do this and it's about time. I was disappointed when I saw Cataclysm information start popping up on the web just after the Alpha started. Having been in the last Beta, I know full well how bare-bones the Alpha must be. For community web sites to take alpha information and post it feels like it's just going to create unnecessary angst within the player base.
Last year I got into the Beta about 6 weeks after it started. At that point I was pretty nervous that I was missing all the good stuff. When I arrived, I realized there were still numerous holes in the crafting content. And WotLK launched a mere two months after my entry. During the time I was there, several professions went through major shuffling and revisions. We're talking weeks before launch that professions were still in flux. In fact, I worried that Inscription would not be ready for prime time based on its status in the final Beta build.
The information we're seeing now is hugely premature compared to what I experienced in WotLK's Beta. There's a minimum of four months of additional development ahead of us before the content is finalized. We have no way of knowing how much of what we're seeing today will still exist four months from now. It's possible that lots of it will be reworked or scrapped between now and then. Posting content at this stage seems really inappropriate when you consider how far from deliverable it is. The only thing this can accomplish is giving players grist for their QQ mill and embarrassing Blizzard. How can developers maintain the freedom to experiment and sometimes fail when we air their dirty laundry at every turn?
That doesn't even address the fact that Cataclysm is known to be under NDA, whether a site owner personally violates the contract or not. If the community at large is aware that an NDA is in force, I suspect Blizzard would have no problem getting a judge to side with them in the matter of leaked information. Were it me, I would avoid posting Cataclysm content for just that reason. As a fan site there's no upside to being on Blizzard's dung list. Maybe it's just my years of software insider experience talking, but I would have no desire to flirt with legal entanglements when the other party has insanely deep pockets.
I hope all the various fan sites learn from this situation. Just because the lawyers don't descend the moment you do something questionable, it doesn't mean there's not a problem. Sometimes it takes a while for the wheels of retribution to turn. But it's better for all involved to use good judgment and avoid crossing that line in the first place. Incidents like this are the reason why Blizzard refused to divulge anything meaningful to us for a long time. I'd like to see the more open communication we've enjoyed in recent months continue. That won't happen if Blizzard decides that the community can't be trusted to respect their work.