This is an interesting question that I get asked from time to time and I realized I have a much longer answer than just “for FOMO”. So here is a nice blog entry about it. 🙂
If you are unaware, many different types of companies that develop products with officially licensed themes keep said licenses a secret during the development cycle for a number of reasons. This is obviously not limited to Pinball and Video Game companies. I am going to list the main reasons that I know about and have been exposed to below, but there are probably many others as well.
Theme, Licensor, and Competitive Edge
The licensee and licensor usually want to keep product development under wraps to get ahead of competing licenses. This also keeps any ideas/designs secret from other companies until the full reveal. Also, there are unfortunate things that could happen behind the scenes if a competing company found out about a theme. Sabotage can happen and licenses can be swept out from under you if you are not careful. For unlicensed themes, this can hurt the company because others could potentially replicate the theme or design elements.
FOMO / Hype and Stagnation
Yes, it is true, a company will want to manage hype around a product, and this is actually important to help drive sales and keep a professional appearance. If a company announced a theme that excites the community at the beginning of the development cycle of said game, this will generate a bunch of hype only have it die down and people lose interest and move on to something else. Development cycles can be pretty long for Pinball Machines and Video Games. It is way more advantageous to keep this under wraps until the product is just about to be released or fully revealed to the world. This also could expose the company to criticism from the outside due to the long time from announcement to product release. This could, and most likely will, hurt the companies reputation.
Leaks can be damaging to these companies. If a license is revealed too early, it can result in spoilers, reduced sales, and a loss of excitement for the game. Keeping licenses secret helps to prevent these types of leaks, but it is not fool proof as we all know. These leaks could also hurt the original IP as well as it could be for something like an unreleased movie or any other unreleased content. This could really get a company in hot water and could potentially get the license pulled.
The Community “What-Ifs”
This is an interesting one… If a company announced a theme early before or during development, the game community could start throwing ideas out left and right. These ideas cannot all make it into a machine otherwise it will look like a Homer Simpson car and loose all connection to the designer’s vision of what it should be. This complicates things in other ways too. “Hey, I came up with that mech! Where are my royalties, my feelings are hurt, fuck you X company”
Again, there are probably more reasons that I did not cover here, but these are just the ones that pop out to me as the most important. But as you can see, there is more to keeping these themes secret than just trying to control FOMO and hype. Have a great day everyone!