Aliens: Colonial Marines publisher Sega has put the blame firmly on Gearbox Software, and especially CEO Randy Pitchford, in a new twist in the ongoing false advertising class action.
Gearbox created the Aliens: Colonial Marines demos that sparked such controversy and "leaked" misleading information, Sega has alleged.
According to Polygon's ongoing courage of documents related to the suit, Sega's latest filing rebuts Gearbox's earlier claim that it had nothing to do with the marketing of Aliens: Colonial Marines.
The filing includes multiple internal emails and paints a sorry picture of a bold marketing plan gone wrong. Initially, Sega seems excited by the possibility of working closely with Gearbox on marketing, describing Pitchford as a "respected development celebrity" and "guaranteed to be headline material in worldwide press coverage".
By E3 2011, and the notorious demo later used in trailers and other promotional materials, things were starting to go south. Sega says the demo was created entirely by Gearbox, and that Gearbox told Sega it was representative of the final product. (You may remember Pitchford describing this demo as actual gameplay.)
Sega PR manager Matt Eyre said he confronted Gearbox about its leaks, and was told they were a result of Pitchford “doing whatever the fuck he likes”.
In an internal email from Sega's Matt Powers, the senior producer says Gearbox "verified" the E3 2011 demo "is indeed the bar that we should use to determine where the entire game will be". It's interesting that he goes on to say that he "just wanted to double-check with them" - was there some doubt creeping in?
In addition to the demo, Sega cited eight examples of Gearbox making announcements either to press or the public without Sega's permission, including releasing information Sega had asked Gearbox not to reveal. This goes against the marketing agreement between the two companies, Sega said, and if ture certainly casts doubt on Gearbox's earlier assertion that it wasn't involved in marketing at all.
In another internal email, Sega PR manager Matt Eyre said he confronted Gearbox about its leaks, which included website posts, panel discussions and more, and was told they were a result of Pitchford "doing whatever the fuck he likes".
"Apparently he did it twice on [Borderlands 2] also, against, against all plans and despite the fact they asked him not to. I think our best result here is that we have no more panel sessions," Eyre said.
Sega also rebutted Gearbox's claim of not earning any royalties on Aliens: Colonial Marines, saying it paid millions in "advance" royalties, and has requested the court ignore Gearbox's request to be removed from the suit. The next hearing will be held on October 29.
What in the hell is going on here?
Not totally au fait with this whole legal argy bargy? Well. let me fill you in.
Aliens: Colonial Marines released in 2013 to an almost universally negative reception. Critics and fans alike highlighted discrepancies between the finished product and marketing materials such as trailers and demos shown pre-release.
Enough of a fuss was made that the UK's Advertising Standards Agency got involved, and as a result, Sega admitted marketing materials had been misleading and promised to add a disclaimer to them in future.
This didn't satisfy gamers, and a class action lawsuit was levelled at both publisher and developer. Although Gearbox described the suit as frivolous, and Sega asked it to keep quiet, the developer later filed to have itself removed from the action, saying marketing was entirely Sega's responsibility. (At the same time, it claimed that it hadn't earned any royalties on Colonial Marines.)
While not admitting any fault, Sega has proposed paying out $1.25 million to claimants. Doing so would protect it from all future actions on the same matter - but would not extend that same protection to Gearbox.
Interestingly, this latest filing also claims Gearbox were offered the chance to be part of the settlement, thereby gaining its protection, for the sum of $750,000. Gearbox's response to this was the motion mentioned above, requesting it be removed from the suit.