No doubt that when it was released Aliens: Colonial Marines sparked a lot of controversy. The game has gone down as being pretty bad, but it hasn't been the shitstorm of epic proportions because of that. No, if it were merely a bad game, then we'd have raged, maybe had a few laughs....
.... And then moved on with our lives. No, it was because what was shown of the game was so different, and arguably better, than what was actually delivered.
This game wasn't the first to do this, and I also doubt that it will be the last, but those that want to pull such things in the future may have to be more careful, because now Sega and Gearbox are facing down a class action lawsuit that alleges the companies lied about the nature of the game in order to sell it.
The lawsuit, filed by a gamer named Damion Perrine, seeks damages for those that bought a copy of the game before or on the day it was released, February 12th 2013. The two main allegations are as follows:
"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,"
"Defendants never suggested - either through the 'actual gameplay' demonstrations themselves, interviews, or other media releases - that qualities and features of 'Aliens: Colonial Marines' shown in these 'actual gameplay' demonstrations were not representative of (and, in fact, were far superior to) the planned retail version of Aliens: Colonial Marines that would be sold to customers,"
"As such, these 'actual gameplay' demonstrations - which were defendants' primary (if not only) method of advertising 'Aliens: Colonial Marines' - served as public, pre-release guarantees: put your money down, and you'll receive at least what you saw in the demos - which showcased the game's graphics engine, level design, and artificial intelligence, among other specific qualities and features."
The counter-argument to this, at least one that it seems probable that Sega and Gearbox will use -- should they choose not to settle or attempt to dismiss the suit before it gets to court -- is that demos are not indicative of the final state of a game. People in comments have been pointing out that even in games that are well received like Bioshock Infinite that things happen in the demo footage that do not happen in the game itself.
Of course, we've already seen plenty of comparisons from the closed demo footage that was always used for ACM against the final, actual results. The question here is whether the way the footage was used was fundamentally different from other demos, and whether that difference was misleading in intent. Likewise, if the demo was better, more polished, then there will also be the burden on the prosecution of proving how it is different from other examples in this same regard.
The jaded part of me wonders if any potential good can come of this. It mostly seems like it's going to shape up to be a waste of time and resources. It would be nice to see some actual accountability from Sega and Gearbox for everything that's happened, because maybe that would set a precedent for when something like this inevitably happens again. Of course on the other hand if this sets a precedent too strict then potentially everyone suffers because people get sue happy.
I dunno. Honestly, I'm not looking forward to how this will shape up. Despite that though, I can't really say that this is something that shouldn't happen, just that, I hope the results walk that thin tightrope towards being beneficial, rather than, you know, just about any other result.