‘Mass Effect 3’ Gamers Demand Satisfaction

Spoiler Alert: At the end of “Mass Effect 3,” the Earth is not saved, and there isn’t much players can do about it.

Normally, the resolution of a video game’s story line — even one as popular as “Mass Effect 3” — would not be news outside the gaming sector. In this case, however, some fans are so disgruntled that they’ve lodged a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that Electronic Arts and BioWare engaged in false advertising.

A petition has also surfaced demanding a change to the finale.

Mass Effect 3

“We demand for EA and Bioware to deliver us an ending DLC that adds what we want and that is for our choices to affect the games ending, so if we want to destroy the universe the cycle of destruction continues and if we get everything perfect we can ( just for example ) see Liara and Shepard get their little blue children and get old,” the petition says.

The gamers wouldn’t feel so aggrieved, they say, if they hadn’t been led to believe that they would have more autonomy over the ending. On such forums as the BioWare Social Network, they point to aprerelease review that appeared on the Official Mass Effect Website promising users “the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome,” along with similar statements made in interviews with gaming publications.

In short, these users are claiming there was no “meaningful player choice” or “multiple significantly different endings” or “closure for the characters and series” as promised at various points during the runup to the release.

Without getting into a nuanced dissection of the game — an exercise that has been carried out in game publications here and here –a case can conceivably be made that the gamers are correct.

The question is, will the FTC follow through and investigate?

A Broad Mandate

Technically speaking, these complaints are in the FTC’s bailiwick, Peter S. Vogel, partner with Gardere Wynne Sewell, told the E-Commerce Times.

“Its consumer protection division includes entertainment and ratings on video games,” he said. “I think many people would be surprised at the areas that they consider important in terms of consumer protection. The FTC charter is, after all, to protect consumers, which is very broad.”

The subtleties involved in this particular case, though — did the pre-game promotion absolutely promise gamers a particular ending? — make it hard to guess whether the agency will want to establish a precedent by moving forward, he said. Such a precedent could easily be construed as too intrusive.

Not Misled

Among those who believe the gamers don’t have a case — or even a legitimate gripe, for that matter — is Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities.

“It does not appear that the company misled consumers, intentionally or otherwise,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “There is nothing in the promotional materials that says “play this game and we guarantee you will save the world. The complaint is ridiculous to the point of being laughable.”

It’s like suing James Cameron because the Titanic sank at the end of the movie, he continued, emphasizing that the game is fiction, and the complainants have “to grow up and accept that.”

What Minority?

“Mass Effect 3” is the highest-rated game of the year and one of the highest-rated games ever, Pachter pointed out. “That means that objective reviews think it is just fine, making repercussions highly unlikely.”

The players complaining are a vocal minority, he said — a very small one.

“There will be no impact on Electronic Arts as a company unless they cave to the vocal minority and create an alternate ending,” suggested Pachter. “Then, consumers will learn that they are wimps, and will complain about ‘Madden NFL’ because their quarterback doesn’t throw the ball far enough.”

The FTC and BioWare did not respond to our requests to comment for this story.

6 Comments

  • I stand by my earlier post that the author needs to state if there is a conflict of interest here. What I mean is if he or his firm has a business relationship with EA or if he or his firm owns a position or plans to initiate a position at EA (buy stock).

    I can state right now, that I do not own and do not plan to initiate a position in EA within the next 48 hours (or ever ..ahah).

    I highly suspect the motives or credibility of the author and here’s why:

    The author tweeted .. "If each ME3 complainer gave $1 to charity, there are 70,000 of them out of 3.5 million copies sold, or 2% upset. 10x that is 20% = minority" ..

    This demonstrates an appalling understanding of statistics. First off, his base numbers are off… only 3.5 million units of mass effect have shipped…not sold to a consumer .. and thus cannot be used to normalize the "upset" category. Secondly, he seems to fail to understand that you rarely (never) can sample an entire population…thus you use sample populations (which do good job model the whole population if your sample population is a uniform(random) sampling of your whole population).

    Polls show that 90+% of people are dissatisfied with the ending … Now I can’t use that to state that the "upset" are in the majority(due to possible sampling bias) … but that number is certainly evidence against his irresponsible gorilla math.

    I cannot possibly believe a professional securities analyst .. has such a poor grasp of BASIC statistical concepts (a tool they should be using regularly). Thus, either the author is a moron, irresponsible (casually throwing numbers out of his ….), and/or unethical (pushing his own agenda and spinning numbers with half truths).

  • First off, the author needs to state if he or his firm holds a position in EA. As it stands now, I would call the credibility of his article into question. Secondly, how can he state that the reviews are "objective" … they are subjective by nature. Lastly, if he is stating only a minority of the mass effect’s consumers dislike the ending … he needs to state some numbers. The evidence (polls on the bioware forum and on ign) say the opposite. Unless he has some hard data to back up his statements.

  • The people who have made a complaint to the FTC are right to do so, i myself have thought about it. They advertised 16 distinct different endings based on your decision’s throughout the three games. Intead we got 3 semi different endings that were the same regardless what you decided. If this was any other type of product the FTC would have been all over it. It’s like buying a car with a cd player and automatic lock’s, but when you pick it up it has a tape deck and manual lock’s. You were advertised one thing and you were given another, if that had happened you would return the item and get your money back but in this case we cannot. It isn’t a matter of $60 dollars lost, this is more to do with the many many hour’s, and for some year’s, spent playing and loving this series only to be given something other then what they were promised. Also mr. Pachter has not done alot of research on the subject, the people complaining are not the minority but the majority. A poll on the bioware website showed that over 300,00 people were dissatified with the ending, over 90% of the people who voted. That alone should show how upset the customer’s are.

  • It’s HARD to discuss this without spoiling the ending. The Mass Effect 3 ending(s) disappoint the people who wanted at least one perfect ending. Titanic was only perfect for women who wanted to remember the guy they loved, but it was hardly perfect for the guy, or guys in the audience who were enjoying the movie up until that point. "Chick Flicks" work that way. What is missing from ME3 is any ending that has all your friends surviving. It’s almost like "Air Force One", where people you liked kept dying even after the bad guys were kicked off the plane. Almost all of what you really learn from fiction is how cruel the author can be, and that’s why people are complaining…

  • Many news outlets are focusing on this without noticing that these disgruntled gamers aren’t actually a small minority. As I type this, more than 72,000 dollars has been raised in the name of revamping the ending to something at actually makes sense. Please follow the link to see the reality of the situation. http://retakemasseffect.chipin.com/retake-mass-effect-childs-play

    Secondly, Michael Pachter, as usual, has no clue what he’s talking about. This is not like consumers complaining because the titanic sank, this is like them complaining if James Cameron had told them it was going to sink, then it hit the iceberg and the movie ended. Then again, someone with a profile like this: http://vgsales.wikia.com/wiki/Michael_Pachter as the second thing to come up in a google search can’t be asked to understand much.

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