US watchdog the Better Business Bureau has accused EA of falsely advertising Mass Effect 3.
Specifically, it accuses the publisher of failing to fulfil marketing claims that players have the power to completely shape the outcome of the game.
Writing in a blog post, the BBB's Marjorie Stephens pointed out a number of marketing bullet points listed on the game's official website, and analysed whether they lived up to their promises.
She wrote: "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?!"
Here are the marketing claims she cited in her argument:
- Experience the beginning, middle, and end of an emotional story unlike any other, where the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome
- Along the way, your choices drive powerful outcomes, including relationships with key characters, the fate of entire civilizations, and even radically different ending scenarios
Stephens said: "The issue at stake here is, did Bio Ware falsely advertise? Technically, yes, they did. In the first bullet point, where it states "the decisions you make completely shape your experience", there is no indecision in that statement. It is an absolute.
"The next statement is not so absolute. It states "your choices drive powerful outcomes". A consumer would have to very carefully analyze this statement to come to a conclusion that the game's outcome is not "wholly" determined by one's choices. This statement, really though, is very subject to interpretation. Also this is just a small example of their advertising and does not take into account anything that might have been said, as far as their public relations and other advertising campaigns.
"The lesson to be learned here is companies should give careful consideration to how they word their advertisements. Otherwise, there could be detrimental effects, especially in the era of social media and online forums."
Mass Effect 3's conclusion and players' lack of control over it caused a massive furore that essentially forced BioWare into announcing Mass Effect 3's Extended Cut, which is being designed to offer users more personalised endings that better reflect the choices they made throughout the trilogy.