Historically, the largest class action lawsuits against video game companies have come from allegations of antitrust and monopolies, such as Nintendo’s alleged price fixing in 1991 or EA’s monopolies on the football series in the mid-2000s. But in some cases, like an application for the 2013 shooter Aliens: Colonial Marinesthe terms of the suit amounted to little more than “the game stinks”.
That happened when two fans sued producer Sega and developer Gearbox in May 2013 for that disastrous Aliens game, claiming that the game’s previews differed so much from the retail version that they “misled” shoppers. On Thursday, more than a year after the lawsuit was filed, Gearbox finally responded with a motion to dismiss — revealing more of the game’s woes in the process.
Part of the motion, written by Gearbox Marketing Director Steve Gibson, talked about the game’s development timeline to waive any financial obligation should the lawsuit prove in favor of the plaintiffs. In particular, Gibson claimed that “Gearbox complemented Sega’s development budget with his own money” to the tune of millions, “none of which was ever paid back.”
While no concrete sales figures were mentioned, Gibson confirmed that the game did not sell enough copies to “trigger sales-based payments”. In addition, Gibson pointed out Sega’s many responsibilities in approving, promoting, and selling the game, and repeatedly reminded readers that Sega, not Gearbox, A: CM‘s publisher.
Gearbox’s response finally resolved the question of whether or not the basic claim was valid. “All plaintiffseven if they are true, they have no merit like a classaction,” wrote Gearbox, claiming that the plaintiffs’ personal shopping stories weren’t broad enough. So no solid connection could be demonstrated between preview footage on YouTube and how many purchases it may have coerced. (One wonders how the marketing departments at Sega felt about such a rejection of preview events and YouTube footage.)
Gearbox probably had to emphasize that “even if it’s true” part, since the company’s CEO, Randy Pitchford, had already acknowledged fan complaints about the discrepancy between preview footage and actual gameplay. In February 2013, Pitchford responded to an angry fan on Twitter who asked why the game and the preview demos looked so different. “That’s understandable and fair,” he said. Nearly a year later, Sega ate its own piece of humble pie courtesy of Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority.