5 Shameless Lies Video Game Companies Got Away With (Almost)
Video game companies put a lot of effort into wildly imaginative stories that could never fly in the real world. Unfortunately, we're not talking about the plot to Far Cry 6: White Boyz N The Hood. We've pointed out before how the industry is built on a foundation of ballsy lies. Since that somehow failed to kill the medium, here are five more audacious moves that big game companies tried to get away with.
EA Installed Dangerous Software On Customers' Computers, Then Denied It
Hold on to your monocles, because Electronic Arts is featured in an article about game companies doing shitty things. Nintendo could stuff every Switch box with live rabid bats, and EA would still be the world's most hated game maker. Why? Well how about that time they bundled a game with some software that could damage your computer, and when confronted about it went, "Us? Nah."
Shortly after hitting stores, it was discovered that the PC version of Dragon Age II contained a little program called SecuROM, which was intended to prevent illegal copying. We say "intended" because by the time Dragon Age II was released, SecuROM was best known for being insecure as hell. Basically, it acted like an overly familiar house guest, giving itself permissions it shouldn't have and potentially making you vulnerable to viruses and other invaders. If you're gonna let viruses into someone's computer, the least you can do is show them some nasty porn in return. That's the very principle the internet was founded upon.
SecuROM was so dangerous that Microsoft outright banned it from running on Windows 10. And if you need an illustration of how stupid EA was for using it in Dragon Age II, they had already been sued for using it in Spore.
EA and BioWare claimed that the program included with the game wasn't SecuROM, just a different program that did all the same things. Which was like claiming you didn't key somebody's car because technically you used a knife, but it was blatantly false anyway. Savvy players found that Dragon Age II was indeed using files that came from SecuROM. Finally, Australian IT firm Reclaim Your Game published a lengthy report proving once and for all that EA had included the software without informing customers. EA executives promptly apologized and then never did anything bad again.
A Mobile Game Company Tricked Kids Into Sending Them Personal Info
In 2011, mobile game developer Broken Thumbs Apps was fined $50,000 for secretly collecting data about their users without their permission. Over half the internet has been involved in some form of data collection scandal by now, but what's special about this case is that they weren't targeting disaffected voters or people who are into text-heavy T-shirts, but young children.
Broken Thumbs published a series of iPhone and iPad games starring Emily, a fun girl whose hobbies included shopping, playing dress-up, and violating the Child's Online Privacy Protection Act. The games were listed in the kids section and were targeted at young girls, which makes it approximately 5,000 percent creepier that they included features designed to lure users into disclosing personal information. For example, one game tricked young players into disclosing their email addresses by encouraging them to send "letters" to Emily specifically including that information. Aww, it's Baby's First Phishing Scam!
Players were also encouraged to post their real names and other information on the games' forums, which is dangerous enough to do when you're an adult. At no point were kids or their parents notified that their data was being mined, and the FTC alleged that Broken Thumb collected information on "thousands" of users. We're not sure what they wanted to do with all that data, but literally none of the possibilities are OK.
Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery Wasn't Actually Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery
The year was 2009, and while first-person shooters like Left 4 Dead and Modern Warfare were spilling seas of virtual blood, a gamer named Jess decided she simply wanted to train some dolphins. She thought she'd found the perfect game in Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery, a Nintendo DS title published by 505 Games. Its website and box art promised a fun digital dolphin training experience (as fun as digital dolphin training can be, at least) in a SeaWorld-like water park.
But when Jess played the game, she quickly realized something was off. Instead of training dolphins to jump through hoops for the amusement of unhappy families, she was playing a high-octane action title about a baby dolphin saving sea creatures on a tropical island. What the hell? It turns out that screenshots and text descriptions of an unrelated game, My Pet Dolphin, had been used in Dolphin Discovery's advertising -- even for its box art! Not even the people who make shovelware can tell their garbage games apart.
Jess contacted 505 Games to let them know about the mix-up, but received no response. It seems calling themselves "404 Games" would've been a little too on the nose. Frustrated, she took her story to The Consumerist, who turned it into summer 2009's biggest false-advertising-in-dolphin-games expose. It was only after they ran her story and Jess filed complaints with Nintendo and the Better Business Bureau that 505 Games glanced around their office and found a few fucks to give. They finally sent Jess the dolphin training simulator she'd been looking for, and pinky-promised to quit lying about games so much in the future. Although in fairness, it sounds like only one person ever played it.
Sony Loves To Promise Impossibly Futuristic Features For The PlayStation
Ken Kutaragi was the CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment back in the year 2000, when he told Newsweek that the PlayStation 2 would allow users to connect to a Matrix-like cyber city. Here's a direct quote: "Did you see the movie The Matrix? Same interface. Same concept. Starting from next year, you can jack into The Matrix!" This would be a ridiculous claim to make about a console coming out today, let alone one released back when downloading a single video took up your whole afternoon.
Sadly, the PS2 shipped without a bulky cable to stab into the back of your head, and Kutaragi's lofty ambitions went unfulfilled. But you can't keep a good liar down, and in 2005, Kutaragi promised that the upcoming PlayStation 3 would support video at 120 frames per second. Keep in mind, this was at a time when televisions didn't support video at 120 frames per second. It'd be like 1972 Atari promising that Pong would post your high scores to Twitter. Nobody even knows to want that yet.
NVIDIA Sped Up A Trailer To Make Batman: Arkham Knight Look Playable
Warner Bros. Interactive's Batman: Arkham Knight was one of the most hotly anticipated games of 2015. Before the game's release, NVIDIA put out an awesome trailer for the Windows port to demonstrate that Batman is somehow more badass at a buttery-smooth 60 frames per second.
"That's incredible!" you might shout, and you'd be technically correct. That trailer is not at all credible. Here's how the game truly runs on most computers:
When PC gamers tried to run the Windows version on their high-end machines worthy of the Batcave, they quickly discovered that the NVIDIA ad was complete bullshit. The game stuttered more than The Stutterer. (We're just banking that a stuttering Batman villain exists. Hey, look at Calendar Man.) Naturally, fans who bought the PC version were pissed, as this was a full year before Dawn Of Justice trained us to expect disappointment from Batman trailers.
NVIDIA had sped up the gameplay footage to make it look like it was running more smoothly than it did. Technology commentators Digital Foundry released a video showing that even on an insanely overpowered computer (running, it should be noted, with an advanced graphics card by NVIDIA), it simply wasn't possible to run Arkham Knight at anything approaching the smoothness in the ad. Thankfully, Warner Bros. Interactive swiftly responded to the situation by ... telling PC gamers to turn off most or all of the game's features. And if there's one thing high-end PC gamers love to do, it's run programs at the lowest possible settings.
Jeff Silvers is a freelance writer who doesn't have a book or anything else to plug, so you should just check out his website at jeffsilvers.com.
It's really easy to not lie, and it's even easier to practice with a lie detector test.
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