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Lies and False Advertising in the Videogame Industry

Videogame Industry

Fans were outraged when they finally got the chance to play NBA 2K20 last week. 2K Social Media manager Ronnie Singh had promised several game-changing features leading up to launch. However, almost none of them appeared in the final product. Even now neither Ronnie or 2K have addressed these lies or even given a basic apology. Of course, those familiar with the videogame industry know this isn’t the first-time fans have been lied to. We live in a culture of false advertising.


SporeElectronic Art’s big 2008 release came in the form of Spore, an evolution simulator. The concept seemed incredible. You would start out life as a single atom and work your way through the many stages of development. The final goal? Reaching the center of the universe.

Early versions showcased a seriously impressive variety of stages. Thirteen in total. It also promised to be realistic and a legitimate education tool. Limitless ambition suggested that, if done right, Spore was in contention to be one of the greatest video games ever made.

Spore’s release was crushing. The original thirteen stages had been cutdown to just five. Evolution in Spore didn’t even make sense anymore. You went straight from being a cell to a fully-fledged land reptile in a single stage. No bacterial stage and no Aquatic stage.

Even the aesthetics of Spore were a lie. Early demos showcased real looking cells and beautiful, natural-looking creatures. What we eventually got was far less natural, far more kid friendly. Spore’s creatures featured googly eyes and weird cartoon like noises. Any fragment of Will Wright’s original vision had been vaporized.

To its credit, Spore is not a bad game. Many still enjoy its content but it’s hard to forgive all the lies. Spore should have been a complex, evolution simulator offering the complete experience of nature. Instead, it ended up being yet another generic kid-friendly creation game.

No Man’s Sky

No Man's SkySean Murray has damaged his reputation beyond repair. Despite Hello Games’ attempts to fix No Man’s Sky post-release, it will always be remembered for its painful beginnings. Sean Murray was at the front of No Man’s Sky’s failures. It was his lies that led a hate campaign against Hello Games and their awful game.

One of the most hilarious lies links to No Man Sky’s tragic multiplayer. Murray described the likelihood of two players meeting as “incredibly rare.” Despite this, he did reiterate that it was technically possible for two players to come across one another. This was not true. No Man’s Sky had zero multiplayer support on release. It was not unlikely, but rather impossible for this to happen.

No Man’s Sky’s initial procedural generation was thought to be complex. A focus on planetary physics was emphasized early on. The terrain was supposed to be affected by gravitational strength. Planet based factors would have impacted the types of gatherable resources. None of this was in the final game.

So why did all of these lies surface in the first place? It was likely a mix of two things. First of all, the pressure Murray had to deal with. The hype for No Man’s Sky was crazy big. Failing to deliver on it would have Hello Games named and shamed. His desire to deliver a great game probably led Murray to promise more than he should have. Secondly, time. Most interviews with Murray seem surprisingly genuine. It seems Hello Games just weren’t given enough development time.

Aliens: Colonial Marines

Aliens Colonial MarinesSay hello to the granddaddy of false advertising culture. With both Spore and No Man’s Sky, many still consider them good games in their own right. Despite their failure to deliver the promised product, their respective development studios did an okay job. Especially with No Man’s Sky which is being updated today. The same cannot be said about the disaster that is Aliens: Colonial Marines.

The most significant lie Gearbox told was regarding Colonial Marines’ visuals. In early cinematic trailers, it looked gorgeous. We’re talking one of the best-looking games ever made. It did not live up to this. It wasn’t even close. Colonial Marines released with early PlayStation 3 looking low res textures. Its particle effects were edging into PlayStation 2 territory. Remember, this launched in 2013. The same year the PlayStation 4 came out. Colonial Marines is an ugly game by all definitions.

It’s easy to forget, but Colonial Marines was supposed to be a horror game. It badly failed at doing this. Great horror games make resource management a key feature. Wasting resources like ammunition can leave you vulnerable at the worst of times. In Colonial Marines players are so stacked with weapons this is never a concern. Aliens struggles as an FPS too. Gunplay is dull with each new weapon feeling the same as the last. The complete lack of fire feedback or recoil ruins the gameplay flow entirely.

The development of Colonial Marines was lazy. We know this because of a bug that ruined A.I behaviour. This bug made the A.I in Colonial Marines not properly track and follow targets. James Dickinson, a talented modder, fixed this by changing a single letter in the game’s code. A mistake this obvious would have been spotted immediately if Colonial Marines was properly tested for bugs.


NBA 2K20 won’t be the last example of false advertising we’ll see. Developers often go unpunished for their lies and won’t even bother to explain what went wrong. Just look at how well Gearbox is doing today despite Colonial Marines. Unfortunately, it’s something us gamers have to live with. The best you can do is keep informed about the videogame industry you are looking forward to. Don’t trust developers on everything they say and wait for reviews instead of pre-ordering.

Videogame Industry and you

Do you trust the videogame industry? What other examples of false advertising can you think of? Let us know in the comments if a publisher has ever tricked you into buying their game. I’m know there’s many examples I haven’t spoken about out there.


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