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SEGA, Gearbox sued in class action lawsuit over Aliens: CM

SEGA, Gearbox sued in class action lawsuit over Aliens: CM

Wed 01 May 2013 7:07am GMT / 3:07am EDT / 12:07am PDT
Legal

Californian case asserts that demos were not representative of final game

SEGA and Gearbox have become the targets of a class-action lawsuit in Northern California which claims that the company mislead the public with demonstrations of the 'actual gameplay' of Aliens: Colonial Marines which bore little resemblance to the final game.

The case is being brought by law firm Edelson LLC on behalf of Damion Perrine, reports Polygon. Perrine and Edelson believe that, by showing trailers and playable demos to the public and press at events like E3 and PAX, SEGA and Gearbox were promising something which they could not and had no intention of delivering - contravening several civil and business codes.

Also mentioned in the suit is the fact that review code for the game was sent to press with an embargo for coverage of the game's launch date - an immediate warning to any most reviewers - thereby preventing anyone with a pre-order from properly assessing the game's quality. As a class-action suit, the result of which will be applicable to the public at large, Edelson hopes to elicit a ruling for all customers who pre-ordered the game.

"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," Edelson's filing explains. "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."

"their 'actual gameplay' demonstration advertising campaign bore little resemblance to the retail product"

Class-action lawsuit filing from Edelson LLC

Speaking directly to Polygon yesterday, Edelson further explained the reasoning behind the case.

"The gaming community had a strong reaction to the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines," said the firm's Ben Thomassen. "We think the video game industry is no different than any other that deals with consumers: if companies like Sega and Gearbox promise their customers one thing but deliver something else, then they should be held accountable for that decision."

Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford was deluged with tweets of complaint, some offering constructive criticism, others less nuanced. In response, he tweeted a reply which is now being cited as evidence of his prior knowledge that the game had not offered the sort of quality which previous demonstrations had indicated it might.

"I think while vulgar criticism is unfair to you most people just want an explanation to why the game is so different to the demo," asked one customer.

"That is understood and fair and we are looking at that," responded Pitchford. "Lots of info to parse, lots of stake-holders to respect."

SEGA Europe has also already admitted to the UK's Advertising Standards Agency that the trailers were misleading after a Reddit user sought clarification from the ASA.

"My aim was not to get fines, compensation or any of that. Gearbox and Sega spoke very clearly" wrote Redditor 'subpardave'. "By saying absolutely nothing - and showed the purchasing community that they would rather this mess all quietly disappear.

"The games industry - like any other - needs to be held accountable for blatantly deceiving the consumer, "And doubly so when a wall of silence is the only response to resounding criticism for shipping a shoddy product, having shown off one with all the bells and whistles."

In response, the ASA sent a letter which says that SEGA had admitted the disparity and agreed to add a disclaimer to any future airings of the trailers. The case was taken no further.

Colonial Marines scored between 40 and 50 per cent on all platforms, according to aggregator Metacritic, despite a single stand-out 90 per cent from EGM magazine. Nonetheless, it saw some commercial success, hitting number one on the UK retail chart.

15 Comments

Adam Campbell
Associate Producer

1,178 967 0.8
This game has become a real PR disaster.

I really hope the damage can be limited sooner rather than later as this will cause issues not only for the companies involved as a whole, but the individuals that would have worked hard to try and make the game a success.

Posted:A year ago

#1

Rafe Gaskell
Lead Programmer at the Design Institute

11 12 1.1
I just hope this brings to light exactly how the project ended up as bad as it did.

Posted:A year ago

#2

Meelad Sadat
[a]list daily editorial director

51 30 0.6
Hate to side with the litigious but this feels necessary. Embellishing a product in how you market it - through trailers for instance - is one thing. A bait and switch demo is akin to sneaking in a different product in the box after you've had a taste of something else.

Posted:A year ago

#3
It is interesting that the media has been down playing the suit - especially regarding the possibility that certain game review scores could be called in to open up the question of paid for reviews? Now there is a backlash also to the Star Trek game that also sees to have changed from the promise of the early demonstrations - and hyped reviews!

Could be a ticklish point for the media and reporting factual reviews - especially with the hype that will surround the Next Gen consoles on the horizon!

Posted:A year ago

#4

Shane Sweeney
Academic

390 398 1.0
So much damage being done via twitter now. Most courts throw these sorts of claims out. If a film trailer is great, but the film is awful, their has been attempts to sue film makers which always get thrown out of court.

But when you have a tweet from the CEO saying they are unacceptable and fair complaints then a Judge could very easily at least let legal proceedings continue.

Twitter has shown itself recently to be extremely risky.

Posted:A year ago

#5

Paul Jace
Merchandiser

935 1,410 1.5
Did anyone ever sue Gearbox for Duke Nukem Forever?

Posted:A year ago

#6

Matthew Bennett
3D Engine developer

21 15 0.7
This is a fine line to walk. As a consumer I thoroughly agree the marketing tactics employed here were pushed to the point of false advertising. But looking at the bigger picture here, how can you define the difference between pre alpha footage and false advertising. This is a massive grey area. Publishers need to understand they cannot do this, but we mustn't get into the habit of calling devs out every time the alpha is different to the end product. That would really hurt the industry.

Posted:A year ago

#7

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

288 190 0.7
Seem like the incubation time is over, now the beast is popping out.

Posted:A year ago

#8

Morville O'Driscoll
Blogger & Critic

1,573 1,418 0.9
but we mustn't get into the habit of calling devs out every time the alpha is different to the end product.
I think the embargo-reviews are the most important aspect with this. Games develop differently over time to how people expect (look at the rumours regarding Thief 4), but when the consumer is given so little information immediately prior to release, then it's obvious that the publisher is attempting some form of bait-and-switch. It shouldn't be that hard to find objective information about a game to judge whether to purchase it on day-of-release.

As a side-note, I find it interesting, looking back, that that the Steam pre-order didn't contain TF2 hats, but merely an extra gun; as though Valve had seen the finished the product and didn't want anything to do with it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 3rd May 2013 7:35am

Posted:A year ago

#9

Sam Brown
Programmer

235 164 0.7
It's been said a lot of times before, but all the consumer really needs to do to fix this sort of thing is not pre-order (it seems weird having something that the consumer can actually do ;) ). I'd be interested to see if all these recent events have actually affected pre-order numbers for future games in any way.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sam Brown on 3rd May 2013 8:58am

Posted:A year ago

#10

Jim Webb
Executive Editor/Community Director

2,270 2,439 1.1
I'm waiting for Sega to sue Gearbox.

Posted:A year ago

#11

Patrick Frost
QA Project Monitor

400 196 0.5
What for Jim?

SEGA would have signed off all of this game to go gold and I'm pretty sure that they make their adverts rather than the developers.

Posted:A year ago

#12

Jim Webb
Executive Editor/Community Director

2,270 2,439 1.1
Sure Sega signed off on everything but what exact did they have to compare it with?

As for marketing, I don't think Sega created those high end builds. Those were created by Gearbox (or TimeGate...whoever actually developed the game). See, why don't even know for certain who developed the damn game.

Who created the original renders?
Who developed those high end builds?
Who directed development day to day?
Who programmed it?
Who did the art?
Who did the engine development?
And on and on?

Posted:A year ago

#13

Tim Carter
Designer - Writer - Producer

570 315 0.6
Check out Alien Swarm, by Valve, if you want badass aliens versus marines action. www.alienswarm.com

(And then, shameless plug, check out my new campaign for Alien Swarm: it's at www.preparetodrop.com .)

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Tim Carter on 6th May 2013 11:59pm

Posted:A year ago

#14

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