False Advertising in Video Games – Aliens, SimCity and Your Wallet
This article will tell you all about the secret ways to legally get any game you want for free.
…Okay, not really. See what I did there? That’s called “false advertising,” and it seems to be a big problem in the gaming industry. Whether it’s a legal problem that will rescue your money from the clutches of those who have wronged you is a different question, but cases accusing game makers of false advertising have certainly become more visible than ever before.
It’s becoming much more popular for game companies to promise the world and deliver New Jersey.
Most of you reading this website have heard some complaints about Alien: Colonial Marines and SimCity. More still probably heard gripes about the problematic launches of SimCity, Diablo III, and Battlefield 4. The list goes on and on, and it’s becoming much more popular for game companies to promise the world and deliver New Jersey. (Shots fired, Jersey.)
First, let’s take a closer look at some of the famous cases that caused online mobs to form. SimCity was a game that I was personally very excited for, which wound up being very disappointing. Launch day was met with an endless list of bugs, downed servers, and the game’s Internet connection requirement (which does not prevent piracy and may be the topic of a future Bar Games article), meaning I couldn’t do much with my product except cry over it. It’s worth mentioning that the game was so broken at launch, Amazon started offering refunds to those who purchased Sim City through its online store. EA did not.
Diablo III was another case of players claiming false advertising on the part of developer Blizzard. Not only was the game’s launch pretty terrible, it also promised player-versus-player combat and never delivered. The Real Money Auction House also didn’t work as promised and turned out to be a bit more game-breaking than Blizzard claimed.
Maybe the most well-known of recent examples is Aliens: Colonial Marines, which was a far different game than what was shown at E3 and PAX East. While it’s arguable whether or not that is “advertising,” it’s clear it reached enough people and made its way around the internet substantially enough that most courts would agree it is. Gearbox shipped a game with worse graphics, a different play style, and less features than advertised, prompting players to file a class action lawsuit against developer Gearbox and publisher Sega. As I write this article, news is actually breaking about this case, as Sega has just offered $1.25 million to settle. Gearbox, however, will continue to defend itself in court. So it appears Sega didn’t want to deal with this headache, and the consumers suing them will get their money back for the game and nothing more. (The attorneys made over $300,000 though….)
So, would the players have won in court? Will Gearbox be victorious in standing up for itself?