Whether the class action lawsuit over Alien: Colonial Marines ever results in meaningful compensation for consumers is something we don’t yet know. However, the legal matter has served to bring to light serious relationship problems between Sega and Gearbox, according to the publisher’s testimony.

As we reported in August, Sega is attempting to settle its part of the lawsuit for $1.25 million. Despite extracting itself from financial obligations, the publisher took the opportunity to rebut Gearbox’s claims that Sega was responsible for the game’s failure.

New testimony from Sega of America filed on September 2 claims that Gearbox handled the majority of marketing for the game, and that a significant level of public relations autonomy was demanded by the studio. Gearbox claims that Sega was solely responsible for the marketing of the game, and the testimony rebuts the assertion with a number of instances to the contrary.

Sega claims that Gearbox president Randy Pitchford often went off-script related to the game, and the studio conducted promotional activities without Sega’s input. The publisher also states that Gearbox distributed marketing material (including on Sega’s Alien: Colonial Marines Facebook page) without authorization and, according to the testimony, against publisher disapproval.

Sega also points out that it paid Gearbox millions in advance royalties related to milestones, which contradicts Gearbox’s claim that it did not receive any funds from the sale of Alien: Colonial Marines. The agreement between the two parties afforded Gearbox additional royalties after Sega recuperated advance payments.

This testimony could impact Gearbox’s ability to convince the court that it isn’t responsible for the marketing and promotion of the game, a key pillar of its attempt to avoid further court action. For more, you can read Gearbox’s request to strike the class allegations and Sega’s proposed settlement agreement.

[Source: United States District Court, Northern District of California, Emails between Sega and Gearbox (Testimony Exhibits)]


Our Take
While I think this lawsuit is frivolous and unlikely to succeed, I am intrigued by the details. This relationship seems to have fallen apart quickly, and I don’t suspect we’ll see these two parties working together any time soon. This is a rare look at the conflicts that happen between publishers and external developers, and I suspect that there are more untold stories similar to this one.