Sometimes the dissonance between a game’s pre-release hype and the final product is so great that fans can get quite upset. And sometimes they get so upset that they decide to take legal action. That’s what happened in the case of Aliens: Colonial Marines, when in 2013 two disappointed gamers sued developer Gearbox Software and publisher Sega for falsely advertising the game with deceptive trade show demonstrations.
In a new development on the case, the plaintiffs agreed to drop Gearbox from the suit, focusing instead on just Sega, according to court documents obtained by Polygon. A judge has also ruled that the suit can no longer be class action, and instead only pertains to the original two claimants who filed the suit through Edelson LLC in the Northern District of California in April, 2013.
The suit was almost resolved in August 2014 when Sega and the plaintiffs reached a tentative settlement of $1.25 million, to be paid out to people who had purchased the game prior to February 13, 2013. Gearbox was asked to pay an additional $750,000 into the settlement, but instead filed a motion to have the case thrown out, arguing the blame should fall on Sega, who had final say on the game and its promotion, whereas Gearbox was just a contractor. Needless to say, Sega was not especially pleased about being thrown under the bus.
Sega and Gearbox squabbled until May 12, 2015 when District Judge James Donato ruled on the class action and Gearbox’s dismissal motion. Donato denied the class action certification because of how hard it would be to define the class of gamers who had been deceived by the advertising without relying on self-reporting, which Donato found insufficient. He also ruled against Gearbox’s motion to dismiss the case.
However, in a subsequent meeting with the plaintiffs, they agreed to drop the suit against Gearbox in exchange for not seeking legal fees. Although the exact reasons the plaintiff has for dropping Gearbox from the lawsuit are not clear, it seems likely that the developer’s lack of interest in settling, combined with the loss of class action status, has led the plaintiffs to focus on renegotiating a settlement with just Sega. The plaintiffs have until June 3 to inform the court how they wish to proceed with Sega.
Aliens: Colonial Marines was released in February 2013 to pretty scathing reviews, including our own. The game was a buggy, tedious mess that looked substantially worse than early public demonstrations that were supposedly representative of actual gameplay. Kotaku wrote an excellent overview of what went wrong with the game’s development.