The class-action lawsuit involving Sega, Gearbox, and Aliens: Colonial Marines has yielded some interesting details today.
Game publisher Sega filed documents (as first spotted by Polygon via Kotaku) with United States District Court of Northern California yesterday in an effort to prove that developer Gearbox was partially responsible for the marketing of the sci-fi shooter Aliens: Colonial Marines. If the court agrees that Gearbox helped promote the Aliens game, then the studio is on the hook for $750,000 of a $2 million settlement that Sega has already agreed to. The developer does not want to pay that, and it is claiming that only Sega is liable. This prompted Sega to provide the court with internal documents, memos, and emails that the publisher believes will prove that Gearbox was integral to the public-relations campaign for Aliens: Colonial Marines.
Why does all this matter? Because last year, law firm Edelson LLC filed a class-action suit against Sega and Gearbox for engaging in false advertising. The suit alleges that Aliens: Colonial Marines looked much better graphically at tradeshows and pre-release events than when it finally launched for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. Sega eventually settled with the plaintiffs and agreed to pay $1.25 million. That deal would also force Gearbox to pay an additional $750,000, but the settlement is on hold while Gearbox tries to get it thrown out. Sega doesn’t want to let Gearbox get away unscathed, which is why it released some behind-the-scenes details.
One of the most-interesting emails shows Sega of America’s Matt Eyre, who manages the publisher’s brands, telling his colleagues that Gearbox president Randy Pitchford is “doing whatever the fuck he likes” when it comes to promoting Aliens.
Sega provided a number of other emails that it believes are indicative of how Gearbox took the marketing of Aliens into its own hands.
In addition to the internal correspondence, Sega provided a partially redacted public-relations plan for the Electronic Entertainment Expo tradeshow in 2011. The document notes that Pitchford was to focus “100 percent [on] Aliens: Colonial Marines” at the event. It also includes a number of references to how Pitchford was shaping the overall messaging surrounding the shooter. One notable example is how he never wanted to refer to how Colonial Marines is “different” from the Aliens film, but instead he wanted to talk about what is “new” for the game.
In another revealing document, Sega talks about an overall strategy for leveraging Gearbox and Pitchford to market the Aliens game. Specifically, the company notes that “Gearbox must be given a certain amount of free reign [sic] to generate PR hits.” The language in the internal memo notes that Pitchford commands respect among gamers and the media, and he would guarantee “headline material” for press coverage.
Many of Sega’s documents would seem to support its claim that Gearbox was a big part of marketing and promoting Aliens: Colonial Marines. We’ve reached out to Gearbox for more.
You can read Sega’s filing against Gearbox below: