SAN FRANCISCO (CN) -Sega's game "Aliens: Colonial Marines" is far inferior to the promos it used to push the product, customers claim in a federal class action.
Lead plaintiff Damion Perrine sued Sega of America and Gearbox Software, in Federal Court.
Perrine claims the misleading promo version induced him to buy the game he would not have bought based otherwise.
He seeks class damages for false advertising, breach of warranties, fraud in the inducement, negligent misrepresentation and consumer law violations.
He sued on behalf of everyone in the United States who bought the game on or before Feb. 12 this year.
Perrine calls it "a classic bait-and-switch: Defendants promised consumers that they would receive a product with specific qualities and features, but then delivered something else entirely - to the tune of ill-gotten sales."
Sega and Gearbox falsely claimed that their marketing campaign showed "actual gameplay" of the game based on James Cameron's 1986 film "Aliens," according to the complaint.
"Each of the 'actual gameplay' demonstrations purported to show customers exactly what they would be buying: a cutting edge video game with very specific features and qualities. Unfortunately for their fans, Defendants never told anyone - consumers, industry critics, reviewers or reporters - that their 'actual gameplay' demonstration advertising campaign bore little resemblance to the retail product that would eventually be sold to a large community of unwitting purchasers," the complaint states.
The first bogus "actual gameplay" demonstration came at the video game exposition E3 2011, when Randy Pitchford, president of Gearbox Software, claimed: "Today, we're going to show you a bit of the game ... [Y]ou're going to see what the game actually looks like. Not just screenshots but the actual gameplay," according tot he complaint. (Ellipsis in complaint.)
That bogus demo was "well-received, with industry reporters making particular note of the demonstration's graphics, robust artificial intelligence, atmosphere, and exciting gameplay sequences, which bore a close relation to action sequences from the Aliens movie," according to the complaint.
Perrine claims that Sega and Gearbox used the bogus "actual gameplay" demos at expositions and trade shows up until its release in February this year.
"Defendants never suggested - either through the 'actual gameplay' demonstrations themselves, interviews, or other media releases - that qualities and features of 'Aliens: Colonial Marines' shown in these 'actual gameplay' demonstrations were not representative of (and, in fact, were far superior to) the planned retail version of Aliens: Colonial Marines that would be sold to customers," the complaint states.
"As such, these 'actual gameplay' demonstrations - which were defendants' primary (if not only) method of advertising 'Aliens: Colonial Marines' - served as public, pre-release guarantees: put your money down, and you'll receive at least what you saw in the demos - which showcased the game's graphics engine, level design, and artificial intelligence, among other specific qualities and features."
But upon release on Feb. 12, the game, which costs $50 to $100, was poorly received and "immediately drew stunning and specific comparisons between the final product and the 'actual gameplay' demonstrations that were shown by defendants," Perrine says in the complaint.
One reviewer said: "the demo look[ed] nothing like the final game ... [and that the] differences are shocking. Most of the lighting effects and textures have been pared down to a stunning degree." (Brackets and ellipsis in complaint.)
To show how different the "actual gameplay" demonstrations were from the actual game, two critics from Videogamer.com assembled a scene-by-scene comparison of the two.
The critics wrote that "'Everything in the E3 2012 demo had a 'much higher [graphical] resolution than the final product ... 'A lot of the textures changed' for the worse in the final game ... Many 'custom animations' present in the E3 2012 demo are missing from the final game ... The technology included and showcased in the E3 2012 demo is simply not present in the final version, and ... Many iconic gameplay sections showcased in the E3 2012 demo are not present in the final version,'" according to the complaint.
Perrine claims these distinctions are not "nitpicky or subjective," that a "video game's graphic engine is the 'guts' that drive the entire experience, much like a car's actual engine and electronic components affect its performance."
He claims that "a major selling point of the 'actual gameplay' demonstrations were 'iconic' gameplay sections where consumers might essentially step into the role of a character from the 'Aliens' movie. Many of such sections previewed in the 'actual gameplay' demonstrations were either gutted beyond recognition or missing entirely from the final product."
He claims Sega and Gearbox made matters worse by prohibiting critics or industry reviewers who got pre-release copies from publishing reviews or feedback about the game until on or after the day it was released.
The price of the game dropped by nearly $30 within a month of its release, though most games retain their $60 price point for at least several months, according to the complaint.
Perrine seeks damages and punitive damages, restitution, disgorgement, and an injunction.
He is represented by Sean Reis of Santa Margarita.