When it comes to videogame marketing, lies sell. Whether it be a CGI trailer that has no bearing on the end product, a white lie about features in a game yet to be released, or in some cases he existence of the game all together – lies are an accepted part of the process. But sometimes those lies take over, and become a thing all to themselves. Sometimes they come back to harm a videogame more than they help, destroying expectation in the process. These are the examples of videogames that were sold to customers on lies – that ultimately harmed the games critical reception or reaction from fans.
The Lie:: EA & Maxis told National Geographic that Spore would reproduce the evolutionary chain of life.
The Truth: It didn’t even come close.
Spore will inevitably go down as one of gamings biggest bombs. Will Wright’s passion project not only tanked when it landed – it also ended one of the videogame industry’s most illustrious careers in the process.
Spore promised to give gamers the universe. EA’s ambitious title promised to let you build a civilisation from molecules to space conquering beasts. The promises being made about the game stacked high, and ultimately fell over hard.
The game was a shambles upon arrival – featuring five distinct sections that barely functioned as a coherent game. Add this to DRM issues and a large number of the promises made falling insanely flat – and its easy to see why EA were quick to sweep this one under the rug. Maxis never truly recovered from this fiasco.
8. Microsoft’s Kinect
The Lie: “What this industry does with Natal (Kinect’s codename) will change the landscape of games that we play”.
The Truth: Kinect was a mess that failed to gain any momentum.
Kinect was an all round bad idea by Microsoft. The device became a focal point for Xbox, threatening the momentum of the Xbox Division in the process as the device fell under a wave of shovelware titles. But it wasn’t always that way.
Back at the device’s unveiling, we saw Project Milo – a fully interactive demo was showcased with an in-game child. The kid reacted to everything with words and phrases in real-time – offering the right emotional tone in the process. It looked amazing – and promised much for the device. Heck – we even got a Star Wars game that made us believe Kinect would scan rooms and make usable items out of our brick-brack.
Sadly Project Milo never saw the light. That Star Wars game never saw the light of day. Kinect was a disaster that did next to nothing advertised in the initial showing, delivering a series of shaky gameplay experiences that became something of a joke within the industry.
7. Fable: The Journey
The Lie: “I will just say on record now that Fable: The Journey is definitely not on rails,” – Peter Molyneux
The Truth: Fable: The Journey was an on rails experience.
Kinect was bad, but the way games were marketed was way worse. Attempts to squeeze AAA-franchises into the Kinect’s awkward framework left a lot of unhappy customers in its wake. Perhaps the biggest whopper though came from the king of lies – Peter Molyneux.
In bringing Fable: The Journey to Kinect – Molyneux told the biggest of lies to the gaming world. After the games initial demo (Which was on rails) the backlash from gamers over the state of the demo forced a public apology. In this apology, Peter declared that the upcoming Fable game would not be an on rails game – but instead a full adventure.
Fast forward to the games release, and gamers were met with a below average Fable game that played entirely on rails. Reviews scorned the game and its lack of originality. Those who’d bought into the hype were left disappointed while the Fable franchise pretty much collapsed into the ocean. A sad end to a fairly interesting series of games.
6. Killzone 2
The Lie: The super glossy E3 trailer showcased as in-game footage.
The Truth: “Target Render”.
If the rise of CGI Trailers seems like a new thing, it really isn’t. It was a practice long in the past of videogames, with some of the biggest titles of the last generation trying their hand at it.
The original Killzone on PlayStation 2 looked great for the time, but when the E3 trailer for Killzone 2 landed gamers couldn’t believe it. The game looked better than most PC shooters at the time – and was a monumental showcase of the upcoming PlayStation’s power.
Except it wasn’t. The reality is that Killzone 2 wouldn’t arrive until 2008 – by which point graphics had managed to catch up to the super glossy world Killzone 2 revealed in most regards. Sadly by the time it hit market, gamers had forgotten about the hilariously poor attempt to pull the wool over their eyes.
5. Watch Dogs
The Lie: THAT E3 Trailer
The Truth: Downgraded graphics
E3 tends to bring the big lies out of developers, with perhaps the biggest whopper coming out of Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs reveal.
Watch Dogs was shown off in 2012 – long before the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One had been revealed. The CGI trailer stunned gamers with its gorgeous graphics and some of the best particle effects see on a console. It was a huge step above anything seen on current consoles – and gamers couldn’t wait.
Fast forward two years and the released version of Watch Dogs was a complete disaster. Downgraded graphics, limited abilities and a main character so dull you’d be forgiven to forgetting his name. Gamers felt betrayed, with comparison videos only further harming Ubisoft’s attempts to cover their lies. It’s a shame as the game we got had potential, but stacking it up to such lofty heights was only ever going to end badly for Ubisoft and their fledgling franchise.
4. Mass Effect 3
The Lie: “Mass Effect 3’s ending will be greatly affected by your choices up until that point.”
The Truth: Not even slightly
Bioware was always up against it with its Mass Effect trilogy. When the first game released in 2007 – many wouldn’t have predicted just how popular the title would become. Yet popular it became, and after Mass Effect 2 found itself being heralded as one of the games of the generation – anticipation reached fever pitch prior to the release of Mass Effect 3 in 2014.
Up until this point, Bioware had played their cards close to their chests. All they would reveal in the buildup to the game was that gamers choices would matter – and that the ending would be influenced by choices made.
Turns out this was a huge lie. Your choices (barely) made a difference to the actual end – as the gamer had the no option of choosing the ending they wanted. Once you reached London, that was pretty much it for free will. I Yes your decisions changed some of the cutscenes in the buildup – but it wasn’t the grand ending to the space opera that many had been hoping for. Mass Effect 3 was criticised for this sleight of hand by the wider gaming community, with Bioware and EA eventually releasing DLC to try and appease angered fans.
3. The Division
The Lie: “The short answer is no, we don’t have microtransactions, period.” – Magnus Jansen, The Division’s Creative Director
The Truth: The Division featured lots of micro transactions.
Ubisoft again here. Yes they misold the graphics of this game too (The Division featured several amazing looking trailers that never came close to the final games quality) but that wasn’t the lie that tipped it into this list.
Prior to the games release, The Division’s Creative Director Magnus Jansen went out of his way to explain that Ubisoft’s tentpole game would not feature micro transactions. He did say the game would feature DLC – but went on to say that this wasn’t “traditional micro transactions”.
Surprise surprise when the game ended up featuring a heap of content that needed to be purchased at launch. Most of it was cosmetic – but the fact that Day One buyers were misled so heavily underlines one of Ubisoft’s more irritating habits – they always work to mislead their consumers before big releases.
2. Aliens: Colonial Marines
The Lie: Everything released pre-game.
The Truth: The mess it arrived in.
Arguably the most infamous case of a AAA-game being built on lies. Gearbox showed off a beautiful trailer of Aliens before release, showcasing some amazing graphics and an Alien game that looked to finally deliver on the series promise.
Fast forward to release, and many who rushed out to purchase the game found anything but a great game. Graphics looked bland and downgraded, the entire game lacked any sense of finish or care. Levels were boring while combat against the titular characters – part of the reason people got excited for the game in the first place, was anything but satisfying.
It didn’t take long for videos to turn up online of comparisons, showcasing the graphical drop the game had undergone. A complete disaster for SEGA and Gearbox.
1. No Man’s Sky
The Lie: Land on asteroids, fly between systems, basic multiplayer and oh so much more.
The Truth: Redditers provided a list of all the lies.
There surely can’t be any other choice for top spot than this space faring disaster. No Man’s Sky was unveiled to grand applause at E3 – showcasing amazing graphics, ambitious gameplay features and the promise of a universe that gamers could explore and make their own.
Much like Spore earlier in this list though, No Man’s Sky was an absolute car crash on arrival. Graphics that looked ripped from the PlayStation 2 era combined with an insanely long list of missing features. Sean Murray’s insistence days before release that gamers could potentially find each other was quickly debunked, as gamers found each other in the vast universe. No Man’s Sky was a complete dumpster fire – so much so that Hello Games struggled under the weight of the critical feedback.
Right now the company is working to put things right – which is good on them. But they should never have charged full price for the pack of lies they unleashed on gamers.