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Gearbox steps up to defend itself in  Aliens: Colonial Marines  case
Gearbox steps up to defend itself in Aliens: Colonial Marines case
July 31, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

Gearbox wants out of the class action lawsuit two purchasers of much-maligned shooter Aliens: Colonial Marines brought against the studio and its publisher, Sega, last year.

Gearbox has filed a motion to "strike the class" of Aliens buyers the suit represents, and also filed another motion for dismissal of claims that keep it attached to the case, which it argues is Sega's responsibility.

Plaintiffs Damion Perrine and John Locke brought a case against Gearbox and its publisher Sega for showcasing one game -- and then selling them another. While "looks better in previews than the real thing" is nothing new in the game industry, the two allege that, in Colonial Marines' case, things got egregious -- and deliberately misleading.

The game was released in 2013 -- after years of hype and troubled development to savage reviews.

As reported by Polygon, Gearbox filed a motion for dismissal, saying that it shouldn't be involved in the case at all: "Gearbox never belonged in this lawsuit. Gearbox is a video game software developer. It was neither the publisher nor seller of the video game at issue."

Gearbox's other motion lists a host of reasons that the plaintiffs can't possibly represent a class of people who bought the game (including the fact that it's impossible to ascertain how many people who bought it watched the pre-release promotional materials and to what extent it influenced their purchasing decision.)

In a declaration alongside the dismissal motion, Gearbox VP of marketing Steve Gibson makes the studio's case against Sega by saying that the publisher approved its development milestones along the way. Gibson also claims the developer dumped millions of its own money into the game -- but never saw a royalty payment thanks to low sales.

If you want to see what the plaintiffs were talking about, by the way, the Polygon review of the game -- a scorching 3.0 out of 10 -- offers side-by-side comparisons between promotional screenshots and the game as released.

According to Polygon, the case almost reached a settlement with Sega in June, but problems with locating plaintiff Perrine -- as it turns out, he's been arrested and incarcerated -- prevented that. A motion has been filed to remove him from the case. If that settlement had been able to move forward, Gearbox would have been dropped from the case.

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Marc Magi
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Gearbox, an otherwise great developer, is not helping itself by taking over the development of troubled and delayed games (i.e., DNF et al) and then managing them further downwards. Lay-offs are preferable to bad publicity.

Christian Nutt
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Though I think this was kind of the reverse, wasn't it? A normal game dev cycle that BECAME troubled?

Marc Magi
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Having refreshed my memory regarding A:CM's history ( I agree with you.

In hindsight, perhaps they should have recused themselves (paid the fines) from this debacle (albeit of their own making) and put their energy solely into the Borderlands franchise.

However, I stand behind my comment regarding Duke Nukem Forever (DNF). Given that title's long and tortured history... trying to complete work on top of that shitty foundation and get it released as quickly as possible was just asking for legal, reputation, and possibly talent-flight issues.

Gern Blanston
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Gearbox wants to say that only SEGA was in charge of marketing. But I can only remember Randy Pitchford all over the major sites showing fake footage and claiming it to be the real game. Gearbox shares every single bit of the responsibility for this mess, and are obligated to sort it all out in court.

Logan Foster
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Clearly you have never worked in AAA or for a big client before. Quite typically you are required to do PR events like this and tow the party line or some pretty hefty financial penalties and ruined client relations. So throwing anyone from Gearbox under the bus because they were involved in PR for this title is 100% unfair. Plus even if they wanted to say "Wow this is a horrible title, SEGA is taking you all for a ride" they couldn't because once again contracts and legal requirements.

Jakub Majewski
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Fair has nothing to do with it. If you fall of a cliff, your motivations for falling are not relevant to the consequences. Whether you were pushed, coerced into jumping, or jumped of your own free will, it doesn't matter - you'll face the same injuries. Similarly here, the court case is simply the consequence of what the public perceived to be deceitful marketing. I don't know enough about the case to claim that Sega did indeed try to deceive anyone, but supposing that they did, and supposing that they twisted Gearbox's arm to force them to go along with it - the fact is, if Gearbox went along with the action, they also knew they would suffer the consequences, and presumably decided that they would prefer those consequences over the consequences of not going along.

Jennis Kartens
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Even so, they were responsible for the game as such. Still a lot of guesswork sure, but I fail to see any reason why the promised quality wasn't delivered in the end. Or to go even further: why nothing really worked out well. Not only the visual tech level was bad... the A.I. was ridiculous too f.e.

When the game came out, most "AAA" games were on that level or even above it... from what I know of the used engine, everything that was promised would not have been ultimately challeging to realize, especially given that Gearbox already has quite the background on Epics tech.

Given that, and Randys overall appearances and experience within the industry, I sure would not go and shift the blame away from him/GB and shove it soley onto SEGA and PR.

Mark Velthuis
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"your motivations for falling are not relevant to the consequences"

Actually they are.
Sure your injuries are the same. But what if you land on a car, who's responsible for the damage ?

If you jumped on purpose, it's you.
If it was an accident, it could be the insurance.
If someone pushed you, it's the person who pushed you.

There's no denying that Gearbox is hurt by this in some way or another. But that doesn't mean they are responsible. If what they did was indeed all because of their contract with SEGA, then SEGA has to answer for it, not Gearbox. Keep in mind, this is about a lawsuit, not about wether or not some gamer rage is justified.

Rob Wright
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YES YES YES. If Gearbox is talking about the general relationship between publishers and developers, then sure, pubs usually handle the marketing, promotion and distribution while the developers works behind the scenes.

But that absolutely DID NOT HAPPEN with Colonial Marines. Gearbox and Pitchford were hyping this game to no end. They bear a lot of responsibility for this mess.

Mark Velthuis
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@ Rob Wright

Would it be possible they were contractually obliged to do this ?

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Rob Wright
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@Voldemaras ZT

Well, do you remember that Reddit post from a supposed A:CM insider last year that spilled the beans? Gearbox had already pushed the release back because it (reportedly) didn't have enough resources to devote to A:CM with Borderlands 2 (which then forced Gearbox to outsource the bulk of the development to TimeGate, others). The source said "Sega was pretty close to taking legal action against GBX" if the game was delayed again, so Gearbox rushed it out the door to supposedly avoid a lawsuit.

Now...."pretty close to taking legal action" could mean a lot of things, and I'm not entirely convinced this source had enough inside knowledge of Sega's operations to make that call. But let's say for a minute that Gearbox WAS faced with a lawsuit for breach of contract if it didn't ship A:CM on it's new target date. Fine. But when then did the developer do its level best to hype a game that it knew was incomplete? There's contractual marketing and advertising obligations, and then there's gushing to the press and social media about how your game is going to be the mother of all Aliens games.

My point is, Gearbox can't have it both ways here. They can't say the were forced to finish a game under penalty of a lawsuit and then also say Sega forced them to make A:CM look like a great game when they knew it wasn't. One or the other is true, but not both.

Here's the Reddit post:

Rob Wright
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@Mark Velthuis

Um....I suppose. I've NEVER heard of something like that, but that's obviously different than saying it's impossible. Gearbox may have been contractually obligated to have a playable build of the game ready for major industry events, but I find it hard to believe that Sega was demanding, via contract, that the company brass hype a game to the extent that Gearbox and Pitchford were (despite their knowledge that the game wasn't very good).

And if that is the case, then why not divulge that information for this lawsuit? Wouldn't that help take Gearbox and Pitchford off the hook and put more of the blame on Sega? If Gearbox had something like that in writing, I'm guessing we would have seen it by now. But instead, we're getting stories about how Gearbox didn't get any royalties from the game.

Jonathan Murphy
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We have real problems, like god awful infrastructure, fracking polluting our water supply in the USA. But noooooo! They want to sue a game dev, because the game was horrible.

When I was a kid and I bought a horrible game, I learned not to buy horrible games. It wasn't hard. I got this thing called, experience.

Richard Black
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When I was a kid buying games the industry was a hell of a lot more honest. I remember reading Nintendo Power magazine which specifically told me what Nintendo games were crap and not to buy them, often before they were released. How often do you get that now? You'd think with the internet it'd be even easier to find out which games suck, but now the obfuscation is pretty hard to penetrate.

For that matter Aliens:CM seemed to go above and beyond in it's promos of specific gameplay which ended up being nowhere near game play. Changes happen but they pretty much obviously were representing some that wasn't game play as game play. What truly aggravates me is Obsidian had an Aliens game taken away so Gearbox could continue with CM based largely on Randy and Gearbox's reputation at the time, and I really doubt their Aliens would have been such a steaming pile.