‘Mass Effect 3′ Accused of False Advertising by the Better Business Bureau

Published 3 years ago by , Updated April 11th, 2012 at 11:16 pm,

Mass Effect 3 Accused of False Advertising by Better Business Bureau

BioWare’s announcement last week of the upcoming Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut DLC was a major step for the developer in quelling the vociferous attacks levied on them by many an outspoken fan, allegedly for misrepresenting Mass Effect 3’s promise of a unique custom experience. Only time will tell if the DLC — which aims to build off of each player’s pan-iteration save data and add more context (but no gameplay) behind the final endings — will have the desired soothing effect, but the drama won’t be disappearing any time soon.

The Better Business Bureau, better known as the BBB, has decided to speak out (sort of) against Mass Effect 3 and BioWare by asserting that the game did indeed stage a misleading marketing campaign on the premise of a completely controllable outcome.

The argument comes from Marjorie Stephens, Director of Communications at BBB of Northern Indiana, who published a BBB blog post on Tuesday dissecting two of the marketing taglines found on the official Mass Effect website:

  1. “Experience the beginning, middle, and end of an emotional story unlike any other, where the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome”.
  2. “Along the way, your choices drive powerful outcomes, including relationships with key characters, the fate of entire civilizations, and even radically different ending scenarios.”

Stephens sums up the situation succinctly.

“The issue at stake here is, did BioWare falsely advertise? Technically, yes, they did.”

Pertaining to the first tagline, Stephens argues that it’s “absolute;” there’s no indecision or alternate conclusion a consumer would reach by reading it. Stephens does deem the second line to be more subjective, however, but she still maintains that it would be difficult for gamers to assume anything other than having universal control over the final outcome.

“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.”

Stephens’ sentiments would seem to echo much of what we’ve been hearing from disgruntled gamers for over a month. One fan went so far as to file a compaint over Mass Effect 3’s advertising with Federal Trade Commission back in March, and we’ve seen no shortage of frustration venting through online petitions, a Child’s Play charity drive, and a cupcake bake to keep BioWare awake at night.

Mass Effect 3 BBB False Advertising

Be that as it may, the blog posting doesn’t suggest any official indictment by the BBB as a whole (BioWare holds no BBB accreditation status in the first place, according to a search on their Canada directory). Nor is the BBB an official organization of any government — a somewhat common misconception given their “bureau” title. Stephens’ own use of the word “technically” speaks to how, even though ME 3’s advertising may be self-evidently misleading, there’s not much court-of-law evidence to prove that choosing “Ending X” over another ending wasn’t what BioWare technically meant by shaping the “experience and outcome.”

Ranters, do you think Mass Effect 3 was falsely advertised by BioWare — and EA, for that matter? Will the free Extended Cut DLC atone for their mistakes, or are you still looking for more closure?

Be sure to check out our spoilerific Indoctrination Theory feature for an extended discussion about the controversial ending.

Follow me on Twitter @Brian_Sipple

Source: Better Business Bureau Blog [via GameSpot]

TAGS: BioWare, Electronic Arts, Mass Effect, Mass Effect 3, PC, PS3

  • Aaron

    Now I have seen everything!! LOL!

  • Cariannis

    This story gets better and better every time I hear something new.

  • sparhawk0

    The BBB post said that one bullet-point in one part of their enormous series of ad campaigns, interviews and other PR exercises, is *technically* false, and even then, is potentially contradicted by the very next bullet-point in the same ad. They’re not accusing Bioware – they’re conceding that pedantic angry nerds who over-analyse this one bullet-point are technically correct, because Bioware worded that bullet-point badly. If you look at the comments on the original BBB post, fans are accusing them of taking Bioware’s side!

  • rustysh4cklfrd

    Seriously Gamerant? When is it going to be done for you guys? I think by now everyone and their brother knows about ME3’s ending, when will you stop? For the last month you should’ve just changed the websites name to “masseffect3endingcontroversy.com” because it’s pretty much all this website has been talking about, and it’s getting old. You have lost a lot of credibility with me with all these redundant stories, which is why websites like G4 will always be superior to you. There are other things that you may want to start talking about, like more Halo 4 coverage, more Bioshock: Infinite coverage, to name a couple. There are probably more stories on this website about ME3’s ending alone than there are about Bioshock and Halo 4. Let it go already, it’s done now, there’s nothing more that needs to be said about ME3’s ending until they release the extended cut, until then the more stories you write about it the more credibility you lose. Yes, that’s my opinion, you might not like it but there it is.

    • http://gamerant.com Brian Sipple

      Today alone we published two stories on Halo 4 if you’d like to check them out:

      One on Halo 4’s music and composer:

      And one on some new details and screens:

      And then yesterday, we covered some of Frank O’Connor’s comments on the game:


      • Cariannis

        Something I learned from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, people have selective vision.

      • Eric

        Good man indeed

    • johnnymerse

      halo 4 is going to blow anyways it’s more played out then the call of duty games. The point is in the gaming world this is news there is over thousands of gamers that are upset with the ending of the mass effect series and we want closure. EA and bioware LIED to us! i will not buy anymore games made by bioware or EA until this matter is resolved and i know i’m not the only one in the world that feels that way. So if you don’t like seeing posts about mass effect unsubscribed from gamerant i got a feeling this is not going to be the last one.

    • http://gamerant.com Rob Keyes

      Game Rant covers news on the big games people want to hear about. When something like this breaks, it’s news and people want to read it, especially if it’s Mass Effect 3 (or any other big title like Skyrim, AC3, Halo 4, etc.). The BBB attacking ME3 is big news and heck, you clicked it to read it.

      As for your trolling comparison, as of today G4’s featured review is still Mass Effect 3 and they’ve had five stories on the game in the last six days. On any site, if you don’t wish to read about Mass Effect 3, you don’t have to click the link…

      If there were more information about Halo 4 – which remains highly secretive to this date – it’d be up. And look, some new screens and score info came out, and we have two posts on it as Brian linked to.

    • Voreos

      Just a thought. The website is called “game rant” thus I think it’s probably pretty safe to say the thing that is being ranted about the most in the gaming industry right now is the disappointment of MF3. I haven’t played anything but the demo of MF2 and can plainly see this.

    • TaboriHK

      When the comments section stops exploding with every mention of ME3. This is gaming media. It’s getting hits. That’s how it works. If you don’t like it, how about making your presence known when they post a Remedy/Alan Wake update? Game Rant covers a lot of things that don’t get much attention, from site members included. I get that you’re mad a vocal population of gamers but guess what – that doesn’t mean they get tuned out.

  • Rodger Walker

    this is a lesson for every one including me to hold unto your money and think 99.9times before you use that 1 percent leave to buy another game from EA, Bioware, Activion, etc.. anything under or works with EA from now on

  • Ageeaarh

    Man, this whole situation is brutal. Bioware horrifically screwed up the ending. They’re not going to fix it. It’s just adding insult to injury. Casey Hudson probably has some kind of gamer fatwa on his head. And you know what? I think he deserves it.

    But, as tragic as it is… I just can’t be upset by it anymore. Signing off, folks. Time to pick up my ball and go home (aka Skyrim).

    • Fiachra

      Casey Hudson has gone into hiding. Stopped Twittering, avoided PAX East, along with his accomplice, Mac Walters.

      The guy has no dignity or integrity. He’s so proud, but refuses to stand with his fellow developers behind his product.

      Bioware is just too arrogant, to consider that their own writing is anything less than perfect.

      You’re right though, it’s getting harder to give a damn. Not because it’s fading from consciousness but it’s becoming clear that Bioware isn’t worth the effort.
      Bioware doesn’t care so why should we? I’ve made the decision to stop buying their products. I’ll always have Bethesda. A company that was able to swallow its pride, and remake a bad ending.

      • Chas

        What did they remake? I never heard about that. Just curious.

        • Luger1983

          fallout 3

        • Fiachra

          Fallout 3’s ending was retconned with the expansion pack, Broken Steel. Not only did they rewrite the ending, but they made an entire expansion worth of content to add to it.

      • Gabeler

        On the record, BioWare is remaking the ending to Mass Effect 3? It’s launching as free DLC sometime this summer. I’m disappointed by the ending of Mass Effect 3, sure. Their storytelling dropped the ball. But I refuse to bury a company that’s not only told countless mesmerizing RPG stories (SWKoTor, Dragon Age, ToR) but also sinks in the millions of dollars it takes to add full cutscenes containing past save data to the end of the game just because their fans cared enough to stand their ground!

        In short, I’m proud. Of the fans, for standing up for themselves and demanding a better experience instead of groveling on their basement couches. And I’m proud of BioWare, for fixing their mistake. If Hudson wants to hide, let him. His company is hard at work to fix their mistake, even if he’s not at the helm. And Hudson can be replaced.

        I’d rather have a coward CEO and a respectable company than a respectable CEO and a lazy company.

        • Fiachra

          They aren’t remaking the ending, they’re releasing DLC that explains, or clarifies the ending, and rumor has it, it’s just cutscenes.

          They aren’t changing anything, just explaining it.

        • Fiachra

          The company IS lazy, look at Tali’s face. They made sure to put more effort into getting Jessica Chobot into the game but Tali’s face reveal was a photo on a nightstand of a poorly shopped Gettyimages stock photo.
          Or, all of the auto-dialogue, which dwarfs the previous games.

          Truth is, Bioware is going downhill.
          Brent Knowles, the lead designer of Dragon Age: Origins, quit in part, due to this reason.
          Drew Karpyshyn, the guy behind ME1&2, also quit.
          Patrick Weekes, one of the good writers, ranted about Hudson/Walters on Penny Arcade, and how they wrote the ending in private, without the writing team’s input (unlike the rest of the game).

          Casey Hudson isn’t the CEO, he’s the lead designer.

          Me, I’d rather have a good company and a good lead designer. I shouldn’t have to choose either/or.
          Bioware is no longer either of those things.

          • Ageeaarh

            Fiachra, I’m glad someone else found that Penny Arcade piece. I read it a while back and forgot where I saw it. I was beginning to think I’d made that story up in my head as some sort of coping mechanism lol. Could you find the link to that post and put it up? More people need to hear that Hudson bogarted the ending (while ignoring the rest of the writing team). That’s a critical distinction to make when figuring out how it all went wrong.

          • Ageeaarh

            Ahh found it. The *alleged* comments were only up for a few hours and promptly taken down. Personally, I think they’re legit (naturally, cause I’m desperate). Here’s a link to a page that reproduces what was taken down: http://www.gameranx.com/updates/id/5695/article/mass-effect-3-writer-allegedly-slams-controversial-ending/

      • TaboriHK

        I also found the fact that Casey and Mac essentially let the other writers acquit the company for them at PAX to be simultaneously very telling and extremely disappointing. If it’s art, then stand up for what you made. Don’t have Patrick Weekes do it for you.

  • Jecn

    wow…that is some sh*t…BBB after ME3…
    i agree this has been everywhere and it is getting old…but everyone is still talking about it and anytime anyone puts anything ME3 wise up it get at least 50 comments in a matter of minutes…
    truth be told i would prefer to see more aboput the dlc package they have set up for ME3 and when to expect for it to release but when a game causes this much sh*t its hard not to report every little thing.

  • Taylor

    This is ridiculous. I never played mass effect 3 or the previous 2 games, but i did however watch all 3 endings on youtube after all this crap boiled over and people whining about it. There were 3 different endings for crying out loud. I didnt enjoy the end of halo reach, getting stabbed to death by elites, i didnt like it when aries was killed in FFVII, i didnt like the joker dying in Batman Arkham city, but im not crying about it trying to ruin a company. If you didnt like the ending oh freaking well, move on, its a video game!! Make your own game and make the happy “lets all live happily ever after” ending for it, but stop criticizing someone elses game, in which you had no part in creating.

    • Malcolm

      People are not upset about Shepard dying. When we went into this game we knew full well the possibility of Shepard’s death. What we are upset about is the last 15 minutes are filled with more holes then Swiss cheese. When it comes to a company that prides itself in amazing story telling, people will become very upset when their writing is not on par with previous work.

      • dueljosh

        the thing i hate about the game is everyones whole “oh he must have been indoctrinated cuz he’s showing the signs.” i call bullshit to that if he was indoctrinated then why did he have the 3 choices and not just the “star/god” child telling him what to do? +the child and the prothean vi on thessia tell him he’s not effing indoctrinated. there are like 10 plot holes in the red ending like, if all synthetics are destroyed doesnt that mean the quarians will be as well since they joined with the geth? + since relays are destroyed doesnt that mean the whole universe is effed since the relays destroy all planets in the system?

        • gytred

          The IT says that all the scenes after Shepherd gets hit by Harbinger’s Reaper beam were a hallucination, and shows him struggling with the final stages of indoctrination. If you pick the destroy ending, it means Shepherd has done the right thing, and has overcome his indoctrination, but if you pick control or synergy, the indoctrination process is complete. The point is, everything that happens after Shepherd gets downed by the beam isn’t real. So the relays didn’t blow up, and no beams were sent out across the galaxy.

    • anomoo

      If you didn’t play the games you don’t actually have a valid opinion on the matter.
      I can tell you’re basing your opinions on what you’ve just ‘heard’ companies say i.e. calling us entitled blah blah blah.
      It’s not about a ‘Happy Ending’ we could care less that Shepard died, in fact its completely fine in most cases what we’re all pissed off about is the lack of Closure.
      If you HAD played the games then you would understand that as an RPG you become invested in characters and to not know what happens to them, not even a little text cut like in Fallout, it’s like a punch in the face.
      They ended the game on the note of “Hey, buy more DLC!”
      Thats just insulting.

    • azrael

      “There were 3 different endings for crying out loud.”

      From the looks of it, all 3 endings are damn near identical or atleast 90% identical, so there’s only one real ending just with different color explosions so technically gamers were screwed there too, lol

    • Fiachra

      Tell me something, did any of the games you listed:

      1. Promise very specific things, that they failed to deliver on.
      2. Feature gameplay heavily based on personal choice. Gameplay that was designed and marketed as such.
      3. Using a deus ex machina for the last few moments.
      4. Finish with a message at the end literally telling you to buy DLC to continue.
      5. Rip off another game’s endings (Deus Ex, *not to be confused with the writing trope that also applies to the ending)
      6. The developers touting the fact that the players are as much the writers of the game.
      7. Have the endings purposefully designed to make various memnbers of the fanbase angry, confused, and “polarized” to get people debating for purposes of controversy.

      The sheer willful ignorance, and use of the same cheap copy-pasted strawman fallacies involved on your end, is so staggering in the face of overwhelming evidence to destroy everything you write, that I’m having a hard time imagining you as anything other than a bored troll.

    • Cariannis

      Interview with Mike Gamble (Associate Producer)

      “There are many different endings. We wouldn’t do it any other way. How
      could you go through all three campaigns playing as your Shepard and
      then be forced into a bespoke ending that everyone gets? But I can’t
      say any more than that…”

      Yea, um…why indeed?

  • Fiachra

    Oh boy, another chance for self important gamers looking for an easy moral high horse to rag on.

    Companies rely on human apathy, coupled with our stupid, short attention spans, to give up fighting long before they have to change. Self centered gamers, who deride issues, they aren’t personally interested in, only serve to kill the industry a little more.

    Are people still talking about it? Yes, and good. Companies like EA/Bioware need to have it driven into them, that people won’t take their crap.

    Don’t like hearing about it? Too “mature” to care? TOUGH S***. Deal with it.
    The same way you tell us to deal with being lied to a business that wants our money.

    Go back to paying for ‘Day one/on disc DLC’ and not giving damn about anything, other than your immediate gratification, and stay out of the way of people trying to make the industry better.

  • http://gamerant.com Rob Keyes

    I’ve been saying it all long. Mass Effect 3 needed a full extra year of development. So much was left out and a lot of shortcuts were taken.

    • Fiachra

      That seems to be a reoccurring theme with Bioware, isn’t it?

      • http://gamerant.com Rob Keyes

        This and Dragon Age 2. Yeap.

    • TaboriHK

      Completely agree.

  • Blah

    All of this drama over Mass Effect 3 is so stupid. *yawns* First world problems…

    • Fiachra

      Oh boy, another lazy, hypocritical “first world problems” snipe.

      You’re here, on the website for gaming, complaining about people upset at a company they do business with.

      What is YOUR “first world” problem? Having to read complaints, that you don’t care about, and don’t want to listen to.

  • Felix

    This is a site about video game, were not going to discus pollution or war here. And the whole deal about ME is about the end of a trilogy, not the game itself. It not like a new game came out and eventually sucks. It about all those players who put hundreds of hours into the franchise and were left whit an extremer bitter taste. Bioware basically said to us that they don’t care what we think, that the real issue.

  • kailen

    While BBBs acknowledgement of Biowares wrong doing has no actual effect on the situation, it is extremely gratifying that an organization agrees that the consumers were misled by Biowares advertising. That is at least some comforting.

  • dan

    I just had a random thought, and I’d like some feedback on it. Could it be that Bioware specifically chose a vague ending that dealt with wrapping up the Shepard arc with IT while preserving the reaper conflict for future games? I mean, that opens up a rich plethora of options for future spinoffs and sequels that detail what happens afterward under multiple genres. And we know Bioware has some previously expressed interest in pursuing other genres because of the canceled ME FPS that served as the inspiration for ME3’s multiplayer, and the rumored MMO that Bioware supposedly plans to pursue. Do you think that, while Bioware certainly did drop the ball with the quality of ME3’s ending, there’s potential for future games that take place further along in the canon rather than just prequels, that showcase a prolonged Reaper threat? I just think Bioware may be preluding a push into drastically new directions for the franchise.

    • Cariannis

      Who’s to say that our galaxy had the only Reapers? Maybe the Reapers in ME are just one cell of an entire Reaper race that wipes out organic life in every galaxy.

  • arametzu

    lol, it’s funny that people are complaining about other people’s complaining, seems like everybody’s looking for something to complain about. Honestly though, about the BBB, it’s just another one of those things that i find dumb but unsuprising. Human nature is sort of and eye-for-an-eye philosophy and many fans feel like Bioware/EA screwed them over so they feel like in turn they need to screw the companies over. Seen it a million times. Yes, i didn’t really like the ending either, i felt like it was lacking, but i didn’t feel like i needed to get even.

  • the who now?

    @dan Nope, to all of it. I think Bioware is good at RPGs, they always have(until recently) been the strong point. There weren’t many other developers with strong RPGs in the market. The fact that Bioware couldn’t get their FPS greenlit but STILL decided to incorporate it into ME3 as multiplayer is proof they just want their name out there as “not just the boring RPG company” to me.

    The fact that Mass Effect 3 was said to include upward of 1000 variables in it to help or hinder you, and we still came to one of three endings says they just don’t care anymore.

    Yes, there was more to the ending than “Pick your favorite color, Shepard.” but it was only about how many other races you could sucker into this war. If you brought no one, Earth is fried with the Reapers. That’s the ONLY difference besides the color itself that I’ve found.

    The Reapers playing second fiddle to Cerberus was also a major fail in my book. These monstrously powerful, genocidal AI dreadnoughts are almost never seen unless for dramatic looks like Earth, Thessia or Menae; and instead we fight endless waves of Cerberus dicks through most of the game. It didn’t make sense.

    There was so much of the game lore lost in the end, not only did they retcon the consequence of Arrival’s outcome, they still spoke about it DOING THE SAME THING IN ME3; total star system destruction, which invalidates this entire struggle if every relay blew up. These blatant mixups are what have everyone so pissed about the ending.

    Their “future” in this franchise is only going backward, it’s all I can see happening. To push into the future from here would mean they would have to actually find some logic behind the ending. How did all those fleets not starve to death with no relays and limited food? How does everyone travel without mass effect technology? If I chose synthesis, why would you even need to continue, isn’t it the final evolution where conflict doesn’t exist?

    No, if they do continue, it’ll be prequels to setup the era of Shepard. Rachni Wars, Krogan Rebellions, The Morning War, First Contact War, those are the future interests; and I won’t be a part of it.

    With so much of the universe you could shape, the ending really let me down. I thought for sure Chorban and Jahleed would be vital to helping with the Keeper data; nope.
    The consort’s little trinket that gave us insight to Humanity’s first contact; nothing.
    A smaller Prothean sphere that reacted to Shepard’s touch, which you just randomly decide to take with you; lost in the refitting (I assume).

    All these little hints, and nothing was done with it. It’s disappointing, to say the least. Yet, through it all, CONRAD VERNER has some of the deepest reaching references from the first game. That is an insult.

    I have to wonder, if Casey Hudson had the Shepard trilogy planned from the beginning, why not just give us ME3? Make THAT your Shepard story, and drop all this extra “baggage” like characters, romances, plotlines, so on and so forth to just make it easier on us? Make it a band-aid and just rip it off all at once, not over five years. This “extended cut” DLC is just another band-aid, I believe it may not even be cutscenes, but captioned summaries ala Jade Empire. (I’ll double-check.)

    Why give us this intricately crafted universe with such rich, individual characters and places, stringing us along as we go, just to reach the end where everyone you know and care about in this beautiful place die a horrible death. Which surprisingly, is what quite a bit of development went into, making sure everything died.

    ME3 DEFINITELY needed another year of development at least, I’m personally shocked to believe they wanted it out by the holidays instead of pushing back to March. The idea of how incomplete it would’ve been at that point haunts me.

    Making a long story short, I don’t think I’ll be buying from Bioware again. They used to make good games, hell they had a great game with ME3 before butchering it, but their pedigree is outweighed by the influence of their benefactors, EA, who I have made my number one destroyer of creativity.

    I should go.

  • Bryan

    First congress gets involved with baseball and now this? Its a freaking video game! It is nowhere near this big of a deal. With all of the problems in this country and the world, nobody bats a eyelash hardly or boohoos about it. But something involving entertainment and everyone is an activist? How about prioritizing?

    • Cariannis

      Better Business Bureau isn’t controlled by the gov right?

      • Cariannis


        Although it has “Bureau” in its title, the Better Business Bureau is not affiliated with federal, state, or local government, and has no direct affiliation with any consumer protection government authority. The BBB, as a privately held corporation, has no governmental authority over businesses.

    • TaboriHK

      It’s not Congress, and this is kind of the BBB’s self-described job. Nothing else is really in their purview.

  • Enrikk

    While I certainly sympathize with the angry sentiments about the ending of ME3, I sure hope that everyone can realize that this backlash ONLY exists because the ME series is, and always will be, awesome. These ARE good games – don’t let your animosity pick your memory clean.

    I don’t know what’s going to come of all this controversy, but I am disappointed that so many fans want to see Bioware “go under” and refuse to purchase any more of their content or games. After literally thousands of hours of playing and re-playing ME1 and ME2, I’m not going to begrudge a company for an ambiguous (story-wise) 10-minute ending cutscene. They’re still great games, folks.

    Demand a better product? I’m all for that…

    But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, shall we?

    • Discipleinblack

      I don’t think anyone really wants to.
      I think I speak for everyone when I say…I want to keep playing. We all loved the games, if we didn’t we wouldn’t care. The problem is, most of us never want to see that…..”ending” ever again. Throw it away. I remember all of the depth I have poured into this story and everytime when I try to put the game back in I say,”is it worth seeing that ending again?”
      I just can’t do it. I’ll give this free expansion a shot, but after that, no promises.

      • Ageeaarh

        Yeah man. I know that feeling all too well. I had to force myself to believe in the indoctrination theory just so I could start a second playthrough. When it became clear that we all gave Bioware too much credit for that, I had to stop playing immediately. It’s tragic.

  • Androol

    Jeez, will it ever end? Kinda feeling sorry for BioWare at this point.