The Aliens: Colonial Marines legal battle between Gearbox Software and Sega of America has become a little bit uglier, as Sega has filed documents claiming that not only was Gearbox an equal partner in the game's marketing, it sometimes took matters into its own hands and made promotional promises without the publisher's approval. The allegations directly contradict statements made by Gearbox in July , when it said that it was just a contractor on the game and had absolutely nothing to do with the game's marketing.
Gearbox made the claims as part of an effort to extricate itself from the class action suit over Aliens: Colonial Marines, brought over the vast differences between what was promised in "actual gameplay" demos at E3, and what was ultimately delivered. Its position is that it had no influence over the game's marketing and thus shouldn't be targeted by the suit at all; Sega, however, presented an entirely different perspective in a response filed on September 2 (opens in new tab) .
Sega claims that Gearbox was an equal participant in the marketing campaign, and that while Sega had "absolute discretion" over marketing decisions, the contract between the two companies required that it consult with Gearbox on "all marketing activities along with sales pricing and forecasts," and "all other aspects of marketing, distribution and/or other such exploitation" of the property. Furthermore, the developer agreement stated that Sega and Gearbox would "jointly develop both a marketing strategy and a list of marketing assets," and listed Gearbox as the "sole creative directors" responsible for the majority of the Aliens: Colonial Marines marketing assets.
It seems that Sega at first intended to take advantage of Pitchford's high profile as a marketing tool, as a proposition document described him as a "respected development celebrity... guaranteed to be headline material in worldwide press coverage" and noted that Gearbox "must be given a certain amount of free reign to generate PR hits." But he had a habit of going off script, according to the filing, which culminated in an October 2012 conversation between Matt Eyre of Sega and Gearbox Marketing Vice President Steve Gibson, and ultimately a recommendation against using him for future promotions.
"I spoke face to face to Gibson about their persistent panel leaking," Eyre wrote in an internal email (opens in new tab) . "Effectively—it's Randy [Pitchford] doing whatever the fuck he likes. Apparently he did it twice on [Borderlands 2] also, again, against all plans and despite the fact they asked him not to. I think our best result here is that we have no more panel sessions..."
The filing also specifically addresses the infamous demo that spurred the lawsuit in the first place. "The 2011 E3 demo plaintiffs complain about was created entirely by Gearbox, who then represented to Sega that 'the E3 demo is indeed the bar that we should use to determine where the game engine will be. That is Gearbox's plan and what they believe in'," the filing states. "Gearbox cannot simply disassociate itself from these statements and actions."
Sega agreed in August to settle the Colonial Marines lawsuit for $1.25 million but Gearbox refused to take part, leaving it exposed to future litigation. The studio is thus trying to have the settlement thrown out, but the Sega filing asks the court to reject Gearbox's opposition, noting that the studio was not "excluded from the settlement negotiations" but was in fact invited to participate and refused to do so.
The next hearing is scheduled for October 29.