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Judge rules against shareholders who sued over Battlefield 4 fiasco

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

A federal judge has ruled against shareholders who claimed that Battlefield 4's disastrous launch and online performance directly harmed Electronic Arts' share price and that senior executives knew the game was unready and made or approved false claims about its quality.

Judge Susan Illston of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said statements made by EA chief executive Andrew Wilson and chief financial officer Blake Jorgensen were "puffery," and "a vague statement of corporate optimism," that any company would make of its products, not "materially false and misleading statements," as the original lawsuit alleged.

Wilson and Jorgensen were named as defendants in the lawsuit, brought by two shareholders, Ryan Kelly and Louis Mastro, in December 2013. Battlefield 4 was unquestionably one of the biggest fiascoes in AAA gaming over the past year, with online problems that took months to resolve and rated numerous apologies from the game's developers.

Kelly and Mastro pointed to statements made by EA executives in earnings calls with investors, and by Battlefield 4's executive producer to the press, saying they had relied on these statements when purchasing stock. Electronic Arts countered that five of the eight statements referred to in the complaint were actually made after the investors bought their shares.

Ilston did rule, however, that Kelly and Mastro may substitute lead plaintiffs who purchased stock after statements made between Oct. 29 and Dec. 3.

Courthouse News reports that Kelly and Mastro have until Nov. 3 to fix their complaint, so Electronic Arts' victory is not a total dismissal of the lawsuit.

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