Mass Effect 3′s Advertising Was Never the Issue
The transgressions in how Mass Effect 3 was represented to players as opposed to what they were actually sold, the snake oil salesmanship of it, was never done in the advertising — it was done in preview coverage, with statements from actual developers of the game. You can easily look back at scans of a massive Game Informer preview of Mass Effect 3 and read the quotes. Here’s a good one from a Game Informer feature from Mass Effect 3 Director Casey Hudson, regarding the complexity of endings in ME3 as opposed to ME2:
“Yeah, and I’d say much more so, because we have the ability to build the endings out in a way that we don’t have to worry about eventually tying them back together somewhere. This story arc is coming to an end with this game. That means the endings can be a lot more different. At this point we’re taking into account so many decisions that you’ve made as a player and reflecting a lot of that stuff. It’s not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C.
“It’s more like there are some really obvious things that are different and then lots and lots of smaller things, lots of things about who lives and who dies, civilizations that rose and fell, all the way down to individual characters. That becomes the state of where you left your galaxy. The endings have a lot more sophistication and variety in them.”
There’s no denying that Hudson’s characterization of the endings is definitely not what was delivered. And there are statements all over the Internet from Producer Mike Gamble and Hudson discussing just how grandiose the endgame of Mass Effect 3 would be. We’re not talking about developers missing the mark on a feature or talking up an idea that falls flat when it’s actually played out — we’re talking about things that these guys told players would be in the game, which are not in the game. Arguably the biggest and most important Mass Effect 3 features were discussed at length, ad nauseum, and don’t appear in the shipped product. That is, was and continues to be the Mass Effect 3 ending debate, and to characterize it as anything else is disingenuous, misleading or just plain dumb.
So no, EA is not guilty of false advertising (unless you want to start talking about whether video game journalism is actually advertising, but that’s a debate I don’t think we can have right now because the truth will make me cry), because EA never put anything false in its advertising. Simple as that. But fans didn’t just pull this notion of 16 endings out of the air — they got that from BioWare. They didn’t go into Mass Effect 3 expecting vastly different endgame experiences because they dreamed it up — they got that from BioWare. They weren’t disappointed at the non-resolution of the galaxy because they’re overly invested nerds whose expectations were upset — they got those expectations from BioWare.
I can’t understand why anyone, journalist or fan, would imply that gamers shouldn’t be upset about that, regardless of what one random government authority thinks about an issue that really isn’t related to the central debate at all.