ASA Adjudication on Electronic Arts Ltd
Electronic Arts Ltd
13 June 2012
Internet (on own site)
Number of complaints:
Claims on masseffect.bioware.com/about/story, a website promoting the computer game Mass Effect 3, stated "INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING EXPERIENCE THE BEGINNING, MIDDLE, AND END OF AN EMOTIONAL STORY UNLIKE ANY OTHER, WHERE THE DECISIONS YOU MAKE COMPLETELY SHAPE YOUR EXPERIENCE AND OUTCOME ... Mass Effect 3 plunges you into an all-out galactic war to take Earth back from a nearly unstoppable foe - and how you fight that war is entirely up to you. Choose a fast-paced cinematic experience or delve into a deeper, more choice-driven narrative. Either way, intense combat propels the action as you fight to unite a war-torn galaxy against a common enemy ... Along the way, your choices drive powerful outcomes, including relationships with key characters, the fate of entire civilisations, and even radically different ending scenarios".
Three complainants challenged whether the claims "where the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome" and "your choices drive powerful outcomes, including relationships with key characters, the fate of entire civilisations, and even radically different ending scenarios" misleadingly exaggerated the variety of outcomes available in the game and the differences between the outcomes.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Electronic Arts Ltd (EA) said they did not consider the "ending" experience of Mass Effect 3 (ME3) was limited to what appeared in the final cut scene, and that the consequences and implications of player's choices were actually presented during the last three to five hours of the game.
They explained that war assets were the collected people, forces and technology that the player had earned over the course of ME3, and that many of the assets that were collected by players would be impacted by choices from earlier games, or from activity external to the single player game. They explained that the total score of all assets was accumulated and then modified by the player's galactic readiness to produce an Effective Military Strength (EMS) score and that score would then determine the choices that were available to players in the endgame, along with the cut scenes which would be triggered to illustrate the consequences of players' choices. They said almost every decision a player made in the game would impact the EMS score in some way, and they therefore considered that each decision would impact the player's experience during the last hours of the game.
They said the final decision a player made in the game would have a drastic impact on the implied end state of the player's story, and that the endings came in the form of three possible choices, the availability and outcome of which were determined by the player's EMS score. An optimal play through would result in all three choices being available but players may have only two options or no choice at all, depending on their previous actions. They said the effectiveness of the choice made was also dependent on the EMS score, for example whether the main character "Shepard" would survive and whether the Earth was destroyed. They said there were also a large number of other, more minor, variations. In particular, they explained how the outcome of the Geth/Quarian Campaign and the Genophage Campaign would impact on the cinematic experience at the end of the game, and the implied end state of the player's story. They said that characters who had died during previous games in the series, as a result of player actions, would not be present in ME3, and that other actions in previous games could also lead to the death of supporting characters in the game.
The ASA acknowledged the complainants' belief that players' choices in the game did not influence the outcome to the extent claimed by EA. However, we considered that the three choices at the end of the game were thematically quite different, and that the availability and effectiveness of those choices would be directly determined by a player's EMS score, which was calculated with reference to previous performance in the game(s). We also acknowledged that there appeared to be a large number of minor variations in the end stages of ME3, and that those were directly impacted by choices made by players earlier in the game(s). Whilst we acknowledged that the advertiser had placed particular emphasis on the role that player choices would play in determining the outcome of the game, we considered that most consumers would realise there would be a finite number of possible outcomes within the game and, because we considered that the advertiser had shown that players' previous choices and performance would impact on the ending of the game, we concluded that the ad was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.11 (Exaggeration) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.