Whenever I hear or read the phrase “false advertising” I’m always immediately drawn back to an episode of “The Simpsons” that I originally watched as a kid. Elementary school bus driver Otto Man is seen leaving a trendy, upscale store ala the Pottery Barn named Stoner’s Pot Palace, disgruntled and proclaiming, “That is flagrant false advertising!” (If I could find a clip, I would totally share it. Alas.) That moment always reminds me there is a fine line between an outright lie and customer expectations — ad copy isn’t always propaganda, and any service industry worker can tell you that customers are hardly always right, if ever.
So, it’s good to take false advertising claims with a grain of salt, and one overly disgruntled fan of Mass Effect 3 who filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission doesn’t mean a damn thing. Of course, when the Better Business Bureau steps in that’s a different matter.
Indeed, it seems that technically speaking, BioWare and EA weren’t entirely honest in their ME3 marketing, according to Marjorie Stephens, the BBB’s Northern Indiana Director of Communications. She states that under the Bureau’s own terms, the gamemakers’ claim that “the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome” could easily be construed as a violation of trust between business and consumer (emphasis hers). This hinges entirely on the fact she gives completely an absolute value, and depending on how you interpret those final, ambiguous cut scenes, the player definitely does not “completely” shape the game’s ending. Like, at all.
Stephens is more charitable with another line from BioWare’s website selling player choices that “drive powerful outcomes,” because drive is not an absolute, merely an indicator of some, but not a total, level of control. Utilizing that logic, the tagline and launch trailer for Mass Effect 3 that promises the opportunity to “take back Earth” from the Reapers might qualify as potentially false advertising. After all, depending on the veracity of the figure who gives Shepard his/her final solution, it’s entirely possible the player doesn’t, and can’t, actually take Earth back. The fact that BioWare/EA have announced a DLC epilogue may be all the overly ravenous fans need to prove that the game itself really doesn’t live up to its slogan.
That trailer is still pretty badass, though, so here it is again. Just because:
It should be noted, of course, that Stephens’ opinion is just her own, posted on the company blog, and is in no way an official stance or statement from the Better Business Bureau itself concerning any legitimate, or not, claims of “false advertising” in regards to Mass Effect 3 or Mass Effect 3’s, and the Mass Effect series’, controversial conclusion. Besides, EA recently being named the Worst Company In America really ought to be enough hilarious retribution for even the most of vocal of haters who believe they were, what the Maku-Maku call, dirt roaded.
Rob Payne also writes the comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter @RobOfWar, and his ware can be purchased here (if you’re into that sort of thing). He’s still on his second ME3 playthrough because he’s giving the multi-player a try, and he’s pretty sure the fact that the galactic readiness has to be constantly maintained is the biggest crime of all.