The controversial ending to Mass Effect 3, the final installment in Bioware's space-opera videogame trilogy, caused an outpouring of protests from disappointed fans who demand that the videogame developers provide a new ending which lives up to both the decision-based gaming Bioware has built its reputation on and the marketing campaign which Bioware's owner, video game publisher EA, pushed prior to the game's release. In a recent article from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the organization argues that Bioware and EA are indeed guilty of false advertising, though they make no conclusive statements regarding whether this might have legal repercussions.
Explaining the continuously developing story's context, writer Majorie Stephens, writes:
Consider this: If you had purchased a game for $59.99 or $79.99 for the digital download version and were told that you had complete control over the game's outcome by the choices your character made and then actually had no control over the game's outcome, wouldn't you be disappointed?!
The vast difference between the game that consumers were promised and the one they got led one gamer, who goes by the name El_Spiko online, to file a complaint against Bioware with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The suit, which they also posted online, set off a frenzy of responses both supporting and mocking his actions.
The article goes on to connect the dots, stating that over-exgerated and flat out dishonest promises made regarding Mass Effect 3 lead to the ensuing protests. The article points to two specific statements regarding the game, which are still up on the Mass Effect website.
The first quote states that players will, Experience the beginning, middle, and end of an emotional story unlike any other, where the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome.
The BBB notes that is an absolute statement, promising that players will completely shape their experiences, and may gamers who played through Mass Effect 3 came away strongly disagreeing with this particular promise.
The second quote from Mass Effect's marketing campaign, adds that, Along the way, your choices drive powerful outcomes, including relationships with key characters, the fate of entire civilizations, and even radically different ending scenarios.
Although this one is clearly more open to interpretation, it does promise that decisions made during the game will lead to radically different endings, which, again, fans have argued is just not true.
BBB notes that these are just two examples, which do not cover everything that EA and Bioware claimed regarding Mass Effect 3 and the game's ending in particular. However, that does not disprove the original point that in these particular instances the company is guilty of false marketing.
The article concludes that companies should be more careful with the wording of their advertisement. False statements can lead to terrible publicity in fan-run forums and social media platforms, although the legal repercussions are still up for debate. While the consumer reaction to Mass Effect 3 has had some negative repercussions for Bioware and EA, the suit filed against them by El_Spiko may not go very far.