BBB Blog: EA May Have Falsely Advertised Endings in Mass Effect 3

A post over at the Better Business Bureau blog by Marjorie Stephens contends that EA may have committed "false advertising" when it was promoting Mass Effect 3. The author of the post says that when EA talked about how the game's ending would work, they may have described it in a way that was misleading to consumers. Marjorie Stephens then list two examples from EA on the ending:

"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."

She ends by drawing a conclusion on whether or not EA actually engaged in false or deceptive advertising:

"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."

Stephens goes on to offer companies a handy link on the BBB's Code on Advertising, noting that the lesson to be learned in this particular situation is that companies need to give "careful consideration to how they word their advertisements."

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  1. 0
    Neo_DrKefka says:

    Problem with Fable 1 was they changed everything they promised the month before release and IGN covered it all up. It upset everyone because what we were promised was never delivered. The gaming press here is eating at the heels of Bioware because EA/Bioware are pushing their political agenda.

    Dragon Age 2 companions were literally sluts or homosexual men who sexually harassed you non stop. Rather then write a story which seems natural rather then forced like lets say Jade Empire they just shoved it in your face. Seriously shoving Yaoi content into peoples faces are not going to make them support your cause.

  2. 0
    GoodRobotUs says:

    I think it's kind of risky ground to walk on to be honest, you'd need to be careful to draw a line between games that are lied about and games that simply do not live up to the hype.

    For example, the fact that trees in Fable did not end up growing was not something that impacted the overall 'feel' of the game, but it was something that was a bit of a trend for that game, a 'promise' that couldn't be kept.

    In the case of EA, there, I would have thought, would be a legal mire with regards to (a) proof of intent to deceive (b) whether the nature of the ending could be considered as 'ruining' the product. I do tend to agree that the wording says something that wasn't actually available, but it would be a long, hard slog to make anything stick.

  3. 0
    Yammo says:


    EA taking the piss out of their customers again, who would have thought…
    …that is, except all the people who voted EA into "winning" the most hated
    company in the world award.

    This is somewhere on par with people who complained that Saddam told lies…
    …not a single sentient person would even consider EA telling a truth, much less
    that there is any way of changing the behavior of this entity unless the entity
    is completely and utterly destroyed.

    (I have a dream….)

  4. 0
    Mrxknown_JG says:

    You do know that the ending got leaked back in the fall over LIVE and BioWare explicitly stated they were changing the ending because of that, right?

  5. 0
    axiomatic says:

    I love Bioware but this really smells like management or marketing forced the game to ship with the only ending they had complete at the time. There may have been other unfinished ending we are unaware of because they didnt ship. This also could explain why Bioware is amenable to a "do over" since they very well have other endings closer to being finished now. So yeah… I'm going to my safety zone of "blame the suits."

  6. 0
    Mrxknown_JG says:

    “Now whether someone in PR saying something before the game’s release STILL constitutes false advertising remains to be seen. However, I at least believe everyone got short changed on the ending so to speak.”

    That is advertisement. Before a game is released anything that is said to hype the game up is promoting the game which is advertisement.

    But as the BBB rep said they were taking excerpts from advertisements and not statements from employees or PR reps.

  7. 0
    Neeneko says:

    Ok, disclaimer, I have not played the series so I have no particular emotional investment one way or the other….

    I do not think a ruling on something like this would discourage creativity.    One can still be as creative as they like, but be wary of keeping marketing and development on the same page.  It seems like the argument here is that they advertised a player-driven ending then provided a static one without correcting their promotional material.    So they considered it enough of a selling point to push that aspect of the game even though the final product did not actually include it. 

  8. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    No one's suggesting developers/publishers shouldn't take creative risks, only that they shouldn't misrepresent what their games actually do because that tends to annoy their customers.  Sounds like pretty sage advice to me.


    Andrew Eisen

  9. 0
    djnforce9 says:

    I'm still suspicious that the ending had to be rushed to meet some deadline (or Bioware's funding ran out) and thus was not a representation of the full creative vision of the developers. It just does not match the quality of the rest of the game. Naturally Bioware's employees are not going to admit this nor point fingers at their investors or whomever said "pick up the pace" but it seems very apparent to me that is what happened.

    Had we gotten the intended ending which nicely wrapped up the fates of all the main characters throughout the series, far less fans would be complaining. What we got instead is a carbon copy of Deus Ex Human Revolution's ending style but with even less variety between the closing FMV's (at least Deus Ex had distinctly different ones rather than an explosion colour change). Not to mention how many plot holes they opened up which is also evidence that this was NOT how the game was originally meant to conclude.

    Now whether someone in PR saying something before the game's release STILL constitutes false advertising remains to be seen. However, I at least believe everyone got short changed on the ending so to speak.


    It's like how in Xenogears, the second disc ends up becoming more like a visual novel than a game (with repeated cut-scenes galore might I add) because Squaresoft had to re-direct their resources to Final Fantasy VIII which was in development at that time.

  10. 0
    black manta says:

    :headdesk:  Oh, for crying out loud!

    Great.  Now this means that developers and publishers will be even more gun-shy about taking creative chances with games.  Game publishers are almost as risk-averse as Hollywood is now, if not already.  What do you think will happen when they read this?  "Gee, we'd better not take any creative chances on our games, and tell the developers we want a totally safe, corporate approved product from now on."

    You know, we fought long and hard against the likes of Leland Yee and Jack Thompson, because we feared the laws they wrote and/or sponsored would lead to the gaming industry becoming genericized; nobody taking any sort of creative risk for fear that they would be censored.  If not by the government, then by the corporations who published them.

    And now I'm thinking ultimately all our efforts will be for naught.  And the irony of it all is because WE contributed to this.  We who fought so hard on behalf of gaming because we considered it art and a form of expression have turned around and pilloried one of the best producers of the medium for taking a creative risk.  And what publishers and developers are going to take away from this is, "Whoa!  We won't ever do anything like that again!"

    Maybe Bioware might have overpromised on what their game could do, but I was always skeptical that they could do it.  Even as far back as the first game, I really couldn't believe that they could honestly factor in the myriad choices millions of different players could make and carry them all through three games.  That was a herculean task from both a design and programming standpoint, and I didn't really think they were capable of pulling it off.  That they managed to do it to the extent that they did, though, was admirable.  But if they really thought they could do that, the resources required for the game's ultimate ending would have had to have been as big as Mass Effect 3 itself!  And I really didn't think any developer was humanly capable of that.

    What I'm saying here is don't be so naive; take promises like this with a grain of salt, and go in with realistic expectations.  Like they say, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."  The people who were expecting 16 different endings honestly should have known better.

  11. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    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.

    True but there's no ambiguity with the second part of that sentence: "your choices drive… radically different ending scenarios."  That part is completely untrue.

    Andrew Eisen

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