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Gearbox, Sega sued over alleged Aliens discrepancies
Gearbox, Sega sued over alleged Aliens discrepancies
May 1, 2013 | By Mike Rose

May 1, 2013 | By Mike Rose
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    18 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



A lawsuit filed this week in the Northern District of California court claims that Sega and Gearbox Software knowingly lied to consumers by releasing trade show demos for space shooter Aliens: Colonial Marines that were unrepresentative of the final product.

Colonial Marines was released in February to negative reviews, with both players and the media noting that the game bore little resemblance to the demos that had been shown previously.

Now law firm Edelson has filed a suit against the game's publisher and developer on behalf of an individual called Damion Perrine, who alleges that the "actual gameplay" demos provided were not accurate representations of the final product, thus tricking consumers into preordering for an experience which they were not provided with.

Additionally, Perrine notes that review code was sent out to review outlets with an embargo that lifted on the game's day of release, meaning that those people who preordered the game were not made aware of discrepancies between the demos and the final game until they'd already paid for it.

"Each of the 'actual gameplay' demonstrations purported to show consumers exactly what they would be buying: a cutting edge video game with very specific features and qualities," reads the claim, as obtained by Polygon.

"Unfortunately for their fans, Defendants never told anyone - consumers, industry critics, reviewers, or reporters - that their 'actual gameplay' demonstration advertising campaign bore little resemblance to the retail product that would eventually be sold to a large community of unwitting purchasers."

Sega told Gamasutra that it is currently looking into the lawsuit at the moment.


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Comments


Lewis Wakeford
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Good.

Tyler Shogren
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Agreed. This is a maturation opportunity for the industry. Games shouldn't be marketed like action figures.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCpbTb3IbV4

Jeff Beaudoin
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Do you really think it is "good" for the precedent to be set that a demo shown at a trade show must be exactly representative of final gameplay?

Putting aside whatever hate you have for Aliens, this seems like a bad plan for the industry in general.

Ardney Carter
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No, I don't think it's a problem. Worst case scenario is that future demo reels come with (more?) visible disclaimers that what's being shown isn't final code and may actually not represent how the game eventually looks.

There's nothing wrong with being clear as to what is and isn't locked-in content for upcoming releases. Keep them honest.

Dillon Rogers
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Jeff -

Do you think anyone is really arguing for that? The issue here isn't that E3 demos need to show the final product. It's that you should be honest with your demo. The A:CM demo has features and technology that were either non-functional, cut or never existed in the first place. Combined with techniques like setting the embargo until after midnight release, it really comes off as "we knew our game is awful, let's see how much money we can get back from it before people realize it."

It's really upsetting and pathetic. It should also serve as a good lesson to anyone that pre-orders a game. Don't take a development company up on good faith because they made one or two good games.

Tyler Martin
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I have to agree with Dillon on this Jeff, and it seems you're either attacking a strawman here or are somehow unaware of just how misleading the demo was compared to the final product, to say nothing of the efforts to keep it all under wraps until the game was out.

no one is saying a demo needs to be 100% representative of the final product, but it damn well better not mislead the consumer into believing there are features which don't exist in the final game. If your final game is as dramatically different as A:CM was by the time it's released, you owe it to the customer to provide newer, more representative trailers at the very least.

In fact, I think that setting the precedent that that level of obfuscation of the truth is unacceptable can only be a good thing for the industry as a whole.

Jeff Beaudoin
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@Tyler and Dilon
My point is, where do you draw the line? Features are cut or under delivered in every game. Suing a developer based on feature comparisons with their trade show demo is not the right plan of action, regardless of how much you didn't like what they sold you.

I agree with Dilon -- this is a lesson to anyone pre-ordering a game or buying it before reviews come out. If you thought A:CM was going to be anything other than an uninspired first person shooter then you were seeing different marketing material than I was.

Dillon Rogers
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I understand where you're coming from, Jeff.

I still think this is a special case. It wasn't just that features were missing - it was that the entire game was a huge notch down from what they displayed, and they purposely did not market game footage from after that point because they knew the quality was a fraction of what was displayed at E3. Then you add in the after-midnight embargo lift, which basically meant no consumer could possibly know this was the case before they bought the game before or at midnight.

I mean, Bioshock Infinite did this exact same thing at E3. None of their demo footage actually ended up in the game. Yet, no one is raising their pitchforks because the game they delivered was representative of the marketing material. It wasn't like they pre-rendered the E3 demo, waited until release and delivered a game that was nowhere near in scope.

We're totally on the same page on one thing, though. This is also the consumer's responsibility, and we all need to exercise more caution and patience. We can't leave these things on faith and expect them to be worthwhile.

Jeff Beaudoin
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Yeah, I agree that A:CM was probably misleadingly shown, but the success of a suit like this sets a precedent to sue other companies (including Irrational) for similar behavior, even when it doesn't warrant punishment (in the case of bioshock).

My understanding is that there are no special cases in law.

Raymond Ortgiesen
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"...claims that Sega and Gearbox Software knowingly lied to consumers by releasing trade show demos for space shooter Aliens: Colonial Marines that were unrepresentative of the final product."

The hard part to prove is that it was knowingly done. Anyone can look at the demos and the release and see that they are clearly not the same thing, but I bet there's going to be a lot of finger pointing as to who knowingly lied to who. Sega will almost certainly try to pin it on Gearbox, but it should be interesting to see how this shakes out.

Tyler Martin
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I don't think there's really any argument to be made for it not being knowingly done. There is no way that any of the companies could look at the demo and the finished product and not know that they didn't even come close to what they promised.

Proving which party is responsible, or how much both of them are responsible for will be the hard part I would think. Then again, it's probably as simple as they both are and I'd imagine if this ever gets as far as court that Sega and Gearbox would be happy to do all they can to throw each other under the bus in an attempt to limit their liability.

Alex Boccia
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This game was a classic example of a bait & switch, I'm not surprised that this is happening right now.

Jed Hubic
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This seems like what reviews are for.

Also where does it end? I can imagine several kickstarters being taken to court eventually too if there's a precedent opening the door to more legal garbage.

Michael DeFazio
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dat release day review embargo... (what about pre-orders)

Brent Orford
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Are they actually liable though? As much as the final game may be divergent from demos displayed at trade shows, did they ever make the claim that the experience shown would be the final product? "Actual Gameplay" if they claimed that in their demos, probably should have had an asterix "*at this time" next to it.

Gameplay is constantly refined leading up to cert/ship and while it may have ended up being different than demo'd, different doesn't necessarily mean worse (although it sounds like it was worse than expected in the reviews it could have easily gone the other way.) Gearbox/Sega could argue they attempted to refine the experience for broader appeal and more consumer value... if they're even liable.

While companies in the industry do benefit from presales they are not involved in the presale other than to supply a retailer with a given number of copies to fulfill the retailer's order. Presales themselves are an agreement between the consumer and a retailer to purchase a product on a given day.

It is unfortunate that the game wasn't the same as demo'd but the industry should have the right to perform creative changes of direction in unreleased products at any point in the cycle. If anyone should be sued regarding presales of a product, it should be the company involved in taking the order, being the retailer. You could argue that the publisher (Sega) is liable provided they marketed the game's experience in a manner that didn't match the game, but my understanding from the article is there was a media embargo to NOT market/review the game until launch.

Tyler Martin
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The problem isn't so much that the game failed to match the demo which was actually shown to people, it's that consumers had no way of knowing that the final product was substantially different since no updated trailers or demos were released, and Gearbox/Sega essentially prevented the word from getting out prior to release with the review embargo.

There is no way they thought the final game came close to what was shown. But instead of updated gameplay trailers or early reviews, they seemed to deliberately hide the truth about the final product from consumers. I can't see any way that that wasn't intentional on their part so they could at least squeeze the pre-order money out of the title before everyone realized the game not only didn't come close to what was promised in the only marketing material available, but was just plain bad. And if we run with the assumption that their misleading customers was intentional, I don't see how anyone can argue that isn't false advertising and/or fraud. They deliberately took advantage of customers who bought into a promise they knew they weren't delivering on so they could make back what they could and that sort of behaviour just plain disgusts me.

Jonnathan Hilliard
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Solution is simple. Just never pre-prder.

The Le
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I think anyone that pre-orders a game is stupid. Not to be harsh, but how many times do you have to get burned before knowing better?


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