BioWare and Electronic Arts finally find some respite, thanks to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruling in favour of the game developer after franchise fans complained about being misled by claims over the impact of player choices on the game's multiple endings. The fans' complaints had earlier been upheld by US watchdog - Better Business Bureau (BBB) - who stated the game failed to meet promises set by the maker's advertising.
"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?!" asked the BBB's Marjorie Stevens in a blog post, according to Forbes.
"The issue at stake here is, did Bio Ware falsely advertise?" she continues, "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."
In a twist to the tale, the ASA has rejected fans' plea against, insisting the endings were "thematically quite different", according to a report by Digital Spy.
"The ASA acknowledged the complainants' belief that players' choices in the game did not influence the outcome to the extent claimed by EA. However, we considered that the three choices at the end of the game were thematically quite different, and that the availability and effectiveness of those choices would be directly determined by a player's EMS score, which was calculated with reference to previous performance in the game(s). We also acknowledged that there appeared to be a large number of minor variations in the end stages of ME3, and that those were directly impacted by choices made by players earlier in the game(s). Whilst we acknowledged that the advertiser had placed particular emphasis on the role that player choices would play in determining the outcome of the game, we considered that most consumers would realise there would be a finite number of possible outcomes within the game and, because we considered that the advertiser had shown that players' previous choices and performance would impact on the ending of the game, we concluded that the ad was not misleading."
Fans Return to BioWare Forums
The latest disappointment has seen fans take, once again, to BioWare forums, in order to express their dissent with the ruling. The forum thread opens with a link to Escapist Magazine and the subsequent fan messages suggest their concerns do not seem to have been addressed by the ASA ruling.
"The issue at hand is the advertising itself, which is regulated was not false (unless you really want to stretch it thin and claim "Take back earth" is a false claim since it doesn't happen with the current ending). All of the misrepresentations occurred in PR statements and whatnot, which are not regulated. They still lied to their consumer base regardless," opines one user.
"No ABC ending... Our choices matter... Multiplayer isn't required for "best" ending... The Reapers can win... Need I continue?" asks the second.
"All lies told...none of it done in advertising. That's the problem. Suing for "false advertising" will not work and will not change their behaviour because no false advertising actually technically occurred. The only way to change the behaviour so they do not get away with misrepresenting their product in PR statements and whatnot is to stop buying their products until they change their behaviour. It won't correct the current issue, but could help prevent future instances," replies another user in response to the second.
ASA vs. BBB
"The BBB blog seemed to better understand why gamers were so peeved at the ending. Still, at least the ASA at least decided to investigate because in the case of Capcom and the disc-locked content, they got off Scott-Free...other than enough gamers holding the wallet and making their executives suffer," Cinema Blend noted.
Meanwhile, Forbes also made another observation. They indicated the controversy surrounding Mass Effect 3, which has been running for a long time now, should be viewed by other developers (and this includes BioWare themselves) as an object lesson in not only making better names but paying attention to what the fans - the paying customers - want.
No Change in Schedule for Extended Cut DLC
Finally, BioWare and EA are set to release the free Extended Cut DLC despite ASA ruling in their favour. Such a welcome gesture from the makers could go some way in repairing relationships between the two parties and if the DLC does provide the closure the gamers are asking for, then all could be well in the world of Mass Effect.
On a closing note, Mass Effect 3 has already made waves with escalating sales figures - it shipped 3.5 million copies globally within the first week on sale - and its rising popularity makes it the biggest entertainment launch, according to publisher Electronic Arts.