The Legal Battle Over Aliens: Colonial Marines Just Got Juicy

The Legal Battle Over Aliens: Colonial Marines Just Got Juicy

We’re still seeing fallout from one of the biggest video game flops in recent history, and some recent court documents reveal a number of juicy details that give us a behind-the-scenes look at the marketing of Aliens: Colonial Marines, including internal emails and some jargon-filled PR plans that are as insane as they are revealing.

Last year, the class-action lawsuit firm Edelson LLC filed suit against publisher Sega and developer Gearbox for Colonial Marines, claiming false advertising in a legal battle that has lasted far longer than either party anticipated. The game, which looked drastically different in trade show demos than it did when it came out last year, was unanimously panned. In the weeks afterward, Kotaku learned that Gearbox had outsourced the majority of development to the studio TimeGate, only stepping in at the last minute to finish production on the much-maligned game.

The plaintiffs behind the class-action lawsuit reached a settlement with Sega earlier this summer, but Gearbox pulled out, asking to be dropped from the suit and arguing that Sega was the main party responsible for publishing and marketing the game.

Gearbox never belonged in this lawsuit. Gearbox is a video game software developer. It was neither the publisher nor seller of the video game at issue. For more than a year, Gearbox has quietly abided the plaintiffs’ claims so that Sega, the game’s publisher and the party responsible for the game’s marketing and sale, could assume the defence of this lawsuit. Gearbox has honored its publisher’s request in spite of plaintiffs’ highly-publicized — and highly-misplaced — claims against Gearbox. At this point, however, Gearbox is obligated to pursue its rightful departure from this case.

(You can read Gearbox’s full case on the bottom of this post.)

This week, Sega struck back. In court documents filed yesterday, the publisher released a whole bunch of emails that were exchanged during the development and marketing processes for Aliens: Colonial Marines. Within the filing (which I’ve also embedded below), Sega argues that Gearbox was heavily involved with marketing the game and that they essentially did their own thing. Sega claims that Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford repeatedly spilled details about Colonial Marines without the publisher’s approval.

One email released to the court, for example, shows Sega brand manager Matt Eyre accusing Pitchford of “doing whatever the fuck he likes.”

None of the other emails are quite as interesting: most contain discussions from 2011 and 2012 over screenshots and minor details of Colonial Marines that got out to the public, purportedly without Sega’s knowledge. A few of these email exchanges involve Sega and Gearbox reps asking gaming websites to take down those screenshots accordingly. (I’ve reached out to Gearbox for comment, and will update should they choose to send over any statements, though that’s unlikely given the legal ramifications here.)

Beyond the emails, though, some court-released documents give us a rare look into the marketing plans behind an AAA video game, which is bizarre and fascinating.

As an example, here’s one section of the PR and marketing campaign for Colonial Marines:

My favourite part: “Do E3 awards = sales? Randy puts forth Epic Mickey example.”

And here is the proposition document for Colonial Marines, which is equally interesting:

Fascinating that their target market is “suspicious of new IP.” “After all, you can’t go wrong with a badass shooter.”

Large chunks of these documents are censored, but still, this stuff is gold. Here’s what might be the nuttiest section of all, stating that Gearbox should have “free reign to generate PR hits” through Pitchford, a “respected development celebrity” who “is guaranteed to be headline material in worldwide press coverage.”

You can read the entirety of Sega’s most recent filing here:

And here is Gearbox’s filing from July 30:

(h/t Polygon)


  • The disconnect between pitchford’s excitement for the franchise, title, and hardware platform, against the fact that he wasn’t developing the game, is priceless in hindsight.

    Aliens on the wii u, booyah!

  • …Matt Eyre [accused] Pitchford of “doing whatever the fuck he likes.”
    Gearbox should have “free reign to generate PR hits” through Pitchford


    • “certain amount of free reign”, “against all plans and despite the fact that they asked him not to”.

      Hard to say what exactly happened, but teamwork helps a lot. If someone say leaks an awesome preview of CM and then the finished product isn’t so awesome… well y’know. 😉

  • Recently watched all the Alien movies. Despite knowing it’s bad I still wanna play this game- but I guess it’s not coming to PS+ any time soon…

    • It’ll probably be $5 in the December steam sale and is worth playing through at that price. It’s not THAT bad a game really. At best it’s okay which does make it quite a disappointment considering how good it should have been but it’s still fun enough to spend a few hours on

      • I enjoyed the multiplayer, especially sneaking around as an alien and killing marines.

        Single player campaign is where the disappointment festers. There was a complete absense of tension with the player being able to carry around 9 weapons – often variants of the pulse rifle – and a near endless supply of ammunition scattered throughout the environment.
        The disappointment of remembering that Ronald Moore had at some stage been involved in writing the plot for this game… then the absurdity of the colony surviving a nuclear blast the size of Nebraska and that character surviving. Arg!

  • “Proven license and developer quality will reassure our audience that this is a quality title”

    Except they had another developer make the game in secret. Randy Pitchford has been such a slimey liar throughout this whole thing.

    My gaming industry pyramid of hate now has Randy Pitchford sitting on top (with EA just below him).

  • I hope they destroy Gearbox. Fuck Randy Pitchford and his lying face so hard.
    You saw how hard he was selling Duke Nukem Forever. You saw how hard he was selling it, despite fullwell knowing what the game was like.
    He’s a goddamn liar and he deserves to lose his pants.

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