Sega Claims Gearbox Mismanaged Aliens: Colonial Marines Marketing

Gearbox president Randy Pitchford did "whatever the f**k he likes," according to court documents.


Aliens: Colonial Marines

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Sega has fired back at Gearbox Software in the ongoing case over last year's maligned shooter, Aliens: Colonial Marines. In court documents filed this week from the class action lawsuit that claims the game was falsely advertised, Sega says that Gearbox handled a good portion of the game's marketing, and sometimes did a poor job doing so.

The motion (first reported on by Polygon) explains that the E3 2011 demo for Aliens: Colonial Marines was created entirely by Gearbox. This demo is thought to be at the heart of the misleading advertising lawsuit, and it was previously asserted that early footage, including the E3 2011 demo, "bore little resemblance" to the final product.

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Sega claims that both it and Gearbox, under the terms of an agreement, needed to agree to "precise particulars of marketing assets" for Aliens: Colonial Marines. According to the court documents, Gearbox officials informed Sega that the demo was representative of what would become the final product.

The court filing also highlights eight other examples of instances when Sega claims Gearbox spoke to the public about Aliens: Colonial Marines without its approval. And in some cases, Gearbox did this in the face of immediate requests not to, according to the filing.

Another major component of the marketing strategy for the game was Gearbox president Randy Pitchford's involvement, according to the documents. At E3 2011, Pitchford reportedly took various liberties when discussing an in-development version of Aliens: Colonial Marines. His apparent unauthorized promotion of Aliens: Colonial Marines also stretched to posts on the game's website, announcements made during a fan event, and the release of an unapproved screenshot. This apparently came to a head when Sega spoke directly with a Gearbox PR representative about "panel-leaking."

"Effectively--it's Randy [Pitchford] doing whatever the f**k he likes," a Sega representative wrote in an email to colleagues in October 2012. "Apparently he did it twice on [Borderlands 2] also, against, against all plans and despite the fact they asked him not to. I think our best result here is that we have no more panel sessions ..."

The court filing also rebuts an earlier Gearbox claim that it never received payment for Aliens: Colonial Marines based on the game's sales. Despite poor reviews, the game has shipped over 1.3 million copies. In fact, Sega says it paid the studio millions in advanced royalties made up from milestone payments. For its part, Gearbox maintains that it spent millions of dollars of its own money to complete the game.

We have reached out to Gearbox for comment and will update this story with anything we hear back. As should be obvious, this case is far from over. Expect to hear more about it in late October when the next hearing is scheduled to take place.

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