Sega and Gearbox Software are the defendants in a lawsuit claiming the two companies falsely advertised Aliens: Colonial Marines with unrepresentative trade show demonstrations.
The suit, obtained by Polygon earlier today, was filed yesterday in the Northern District of California court by law firm Edelson LLC on behalf of plaintiff Damion Perrine. Citing a number of California civil and business codes, the suit claims that Gearbox and Sega falsely advertised Aliens by showing demos at trade shows like PAX and E3 which didn't end up being accurate representations of the final product.
These demos, which Gearbox co-founder Randy Pitchford called "actual gameplay," according to filing, were criticized after the game's launch for featuring graphical fidelity, AI behavior and even entire levels not featured in the game. Our review of Aliens: Colonial Marines featured a gallery highlighting some of the differences between a 2012 video walkthrough of the title, and the same level in the final version of the game.
The suit claims that by sending out review code to the press under an embargo that lifted in the early morning of Aliens: Colonial Marines' launch date of Feb. 12, the game's pre-orderers and early adopters would have no knowledge of the discrepancies between the demo and final game. As such, it seeks damages for anyone who purchased the game on or before its release date.
"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," the claim reads. "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."
The suit also cites a tweet from Pitchford, published a week after the game's launch, as acknowledgement of the differences between the demo and game.
"That is understood and fair and we are looking at that," Pitchford said in response to a tweet asking about the press demo discrepancies. "Lots of info to parse, lots of stake holders to respect."
"We think the video game industry is no different than any other that deals with consumers"
We reached out to Edelson to find out why they had decided to take on Perrine's case.
"The gaming community had a strong reaction to the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines," Edelson LLC's Ben Thomassen told Polygon. "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."
We have also reached out to Sega and Gearbox for their responses to the suit's claims, and will update this post if and when we hear back.
Update: A Sega representative has released the following statement to Polygon: "SEGA cannot comment on specifics of ongoing litigation, but we are confident that the lawsuit is without merit and we will defend it vigorously."