The widely pilloried ending to Mass Effect 3 may constitute false advertising on the part of developer BioWare, according to US trading standards group the Better Business Bureau.
A new blog post from its communications director Marjorie Stephens today directly answered complaints to that effect made by gamers to the US Federal Trade Commission.
According to Stephens, the offending statements are two pieces of marketing blurb from the game's official website:
- "Experience the beginning, middle, and end of an emotional story unlike any other, where the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome."
- "Along the way, your choices drive powerful outcomes, including relationships with key characters, the fate of entire civilizations, and even radically different ending scenarios."
"Did BioWare falsely advertise?" asked Stephens.
"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."
However, she went on to argue that the case against the second sentence is not quite so clear cut.
"The next statement is not so absolute. It states 'your choices drive powerful outcomes'. A consumer would have to very carefully analyse this statement to come to a conclusion that the game's outcome is not 'wholly' determined by one's choices. This statement, really though, is very subject to interpretation."
Though just a blog post and not an official judgment from the organisation, Stephens did call on publishers to take more care when crafting marketing soundbites.
"The lesson to be learned here is companies should give careful consideration to how they word their advertisements. Otherwise, there could be detrimental effects, especially in the era of social media and online forums," she wrote.
Following widespread fan outcry at the game's controversial denouement, BioWare has announced a free DLC expansion that will add clarity to the story.