False advertising in games

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The good old "bait and switch".
"If it sounds too good to be true, it's probably false."
Sonic, Sonic Sez segment from the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode "Birth of a Salesman"

False advertising is the use of misleading, false, or unproven information to advertise games to attract gamers. An example of false advertising is a company advertising an upcoming game as a first-person shooter game, but then releasing it as a beat 'em up game. This is an example that would hardly ever happen, but this hypothetical example would be considered false advertising if it happened. Another, much more realistic example if a publisher advertised features that are nowhere to be found in the final product.

In some countries this is illegal to do, and companies and people can be fined a significant sum of money and people involved can be arrested if this is done.

This issue is so bad in gaming, there's even an entire category for it on this very wiki.

Examples

  1. The most common example is the box art for almost all video games, where the artwork looks clean and realistic, but the game does not yield said graphics. This has been common since at least the fifth generation.
  2. One common tactic used by shady companies throughout the history of gaming is to quote-mine previews on game boxes as if they are reviews. Shadier companies will simply take positive-sounding quotes out of context (ex "it is incredible how bad this game is" becomes "...incredible..." on the box): indeed, one of the reasons reviewers tend to provide numeric scores is to clue buyers into the fact that a quote provided without a score may be being taken out of context.
    • Bubsy 3D is one of the most infamous cases of this. The front cover of the box quotes "Stunning... Original... Bubsy 3D climbs back to the top... Check it out! - EGM" which would imply that EGM gave the game a positive review when they actually gave it an incredibly negative review. The developers quote mined a preview article to make it sound positive, in fact, the quote didn't even come from the review itself. The frequent ellipses give away that the quote is completely out of context.
  3. So called "bullshots" are images claimed to be screenshots depicting gameplay but are at best-crowded shots created as static poses, or at worst actually created in 3D rendering programs and not the game engine at all.
  4. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, games that were released on multiple computer formats often had screenshots from different versions on the back of the packaging, with some blurbs occasionally stating that screenshots may be taken from a different format, and they seldom showed the screenshots taken from the proper versions, which was especially common with the 8-bit computer ports.
  5. Another example is the use of realistic cinematic trailers to lure gamers. This was more common in sixth generation games and early mobile games.
  6. The most egregious and infamous example of false advertising in recent times is No Man's Sky. In multiple interviews for the game, Sean Murray was asked about what features would be in the game and he said "Yes, it'll be in the game" to almost everything, creating expectations of the game being of extremely high quality and very innovative. When the game was released, angry gamers found that most of the features that Murray directly said "yes" to in public interviews were not actually in the game at all. This led to a lawsuit being filed against the developers and publishers of the game. Steam created an exception to their refund policy allowing users to refund this game even if the game was played for more than two hours, and also started disallowing publishers from posting screenshots of pre-rendered cutscenes and concept art as screenshots for games. Also, after some time of gameplay, the game crashes on all consoles.
  7. Aliens: Colonial Marines is another example of this. The developers of the game put together a short demo that looked and played much better than the finished game for E3 and promotional material to cover up how botched the game actually was before release. This also led to a class-action lawsuit being filed against Sega and Gearbox.
  8. Hot Wired: The game claims to be highly addictive, have intense 3D graphics and realistic sound effects but the game can be cleared pretty quickly, the graphics are not bad, but not what the game promised, and the sound effects are very crappy and lack quality.
  9. The entire box, front and back, of Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing completely lies to you about what the game was actually about. This and similar examples such as game manuals talking about features that are not in the game (e.g. Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)'s manual or Devil May Cry 2's manual, both of which list features that do not exist) are because it is the publisher rather than the developer who created the packaging and manuals, and they are usually given a description of what is supposed to end up in the game by the developer.
  10. Because the mobile game industry is more of an exploit than an actual game market, it has been home to many greedy individuals whose main priority is to make money for themselves. The advertisements are notorious for being extinct from the actual game and not featuring gameplay at all.
    • Some of the clone/rip-off games from App Store/Play Store have fake screenshots (usually CGI renders and from other AAA games) and app icons to trick users into downloading them.
    • Some mobile titles such Linage II: Revolution and Last Empire: War Z featured fake gameplay videos.
    • Mafia City, another known pay-to-win mobile game, is notorious for flooding over 1 hour 34 minutes' worth of cartoony sketches that are completely nothing like how the actual game plays out. It ended up being a meme not only because of their false ads but also because of how idiotic it is.
    • The advertisements for Homescapes and Matchington Mansion make the games look like a house-fixing game where you must drag the correct tools to where they are needed, but, in reality, they are basically Candy Crush clones with some customization options thrown into the mix. Firecraft Studios at least tried to be honest about Matchington Mansion because “matching” is in the name.
      • In fact, Homescapes, Gardenscapes and Fishdom follow a similar formula of false adverts that is entirely different from the actual game where you must drag and drop an item to solve a problem. As stated above, the actual gameplay is entirely different from those ads they show you.
    • To summarise it, the false ads are usually from simplistic games in the strategy, hyper-casual, fantasy RPG and puzzle genres.
    • Some games with fake CGI rendered gameplay have fake touchscreen controls slapped onto them.
  11. LJN Video Art: All three screenshots on the box could not possibly have been colored using the device itself unless you are really skilled.
  12. The launch price of the Philips CD-i.
  13. The Collector's Edition of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite has six LED Infinity Stones, but they all look like plastic Easter eggs and are nothing like how they look in the advertisement.
  14. Destiny: Promotional material made it seem like there was going to be a massive story involving your character, The Guardian, exploring the Milky Way galaxy and fighting hostile aliens who wanted to wipe out humanity. In reality, you got an incredibly disjointed story revolving around a mysterious evil entity known as "The Darkness".
  15. Star Wars Battlefront II: It was claimed prior to release that the game's campaign would've focused on the Empire, showing their view of the events between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, specifically from the perspective of a Special Ops squad. However, barely halfway through the campaign, the protagonist and her allies defect to the Rebellion in a matter of three missions (plus a mission where the player controls Luke Skywalker).
  16. Cyberpunk 2077: The game is notorious for having one of the biggest false advertisements in gaming history to the point that it ruined CD Projekt Red's reputation for many as well as making CD Projekt subject to investigations and class-action lawsuits, as the game promised that your choices will matter in the game, realistic graphics, lack of microtransactions, revolutionary gameplay and the game working well on the PS4/Xbox One; However when the game was released, people realized that most of the trailers and reviews were lies, as most choices didn't matter, the game's graphics look like a late PS1 game (mainly due to the bugs),microtransactions coming later in an update (though to be fair, they said this will be for the upcoming multiplayer mode), lack of gameplay features that was available in many older games like GTA 3 (Which was released 19 years before the game was released) and the game being unplayable on the PS4 and Xbox One.
  17. Balan Wonderworld: As Sonic Team creates the Sonic the Hedgehog series, where Sonic actually plays the main role, this game is the complete opposite. Although the name of the company and the title of the game suggest that Balan will be the main character, it turns out to be completely misleading. In fact, the main role is played by children named Leo Craig or Emma Cole if you choose one, but Balan is only playable in the QTE sections, which are known as Balan Bouts. When you find a large golden hat with a hiding Balan, a mini-game starts where you control Balan and go through four rounds of quick-time events, in which you have four times to tap or mash one button, when Balan's shadow lines up with him. This mini-game is repeated almost fifty times with pitifully little variation. You can technically play as Balan, but in the form of a costume that utterly breaks the game. In order to get it, you have to complete the levels to get rainbow gems, on the island of the Tims, you must feed many of the Tims, after feeding the Tims, they will be enlarged with 3 gems stuck in their belly, you must get a Tim too white color with a crown, and then you throw it on the statue, and the giant Tim comes to life and sends you an extra Balan suit, and best of all, with this suit you can explore all the levels by flying infinitely, resulting in a surprisingly good suit to use.
  18. Halo 5: Guardians: The game was heavily hyped up with advertisements that showed story elements that weren't actually in the game, and the trailers hyped up Master Chief and Locke fighting heavily (They do fight in the game, but it is just them punching each other like pudgy drunks). When the game came out, people realized these story elements weren't in the game, and that the game's story is just an awful mess that forces you to learn about the Expanded Universe in order to even remotely understand it.
  19. On the cartridge art of Little Red Hood, it shows a picture of Little Red Hood kicking an enemy, claiming you can kick enemies. Despite the kicking mechanic being in the game itself, it does absolutely nothing to enemies and is meant to be used for getting fruit from trees.
  20. Bomberman Land (Wii): On the box-art, there are some characters that do not appear in the game itself. In fact, it’s actually the creators’ fault for having false advertising in this game, though this may be just a mistake.
  21. Hunt Down the Freeman: The title and one of the screenshots shows Gordon Freeman attacking the main protagonist with a crowbar. This doesn't actually happen in-game as "Gordon Freeman" is later revealed to be another character who disguised himself as Freeman.
  22. London Racer's opening cutscene features gameplay, not from the actual game, as well as a nice-looking supercar that doesn't feature in the game at all.
  23. Action Girlz Racing: The back of the game states that it is "the only racing game designed by Girls, for Girls!". The female names in the credits (despite featuring a man's name in them) are just female names of the actual men who designed this game.
  24. Lords Mobile: A known pay-to-win game, that's infamous for its fake gameplay ads, where people” play” on their shut-off phone or tablet and pretend that it’s the actual game, leading to the user to download the game and see that it’s actually a real-time strategy war game.
  25. Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012): It completely lies to you that it's a Need for Speed game when it's essentially Burnout Paradise with licensed cars and cops. The cover art is similar to the one from the aforementioned title. After beating a most wanted rival, you are able to take it down. Similar to taking-down free-roaming cars in Burnout Paradise.
  26. Homefront was rather infamously promoted with a fake multiplayer video created entirely using animation software but designed to look like gameplay, at a time when in reality the studio did not have a functioning game. Creating the assets for the fake trailer, all of which were then discarded, severely cut into the game's dev time.
  27. Club Penguin: Herbert's Revenge claims that the missions are new, but in reality, they are ports of the original Club Penguin missions online.
  28. Mario Party: The Top 100 had all the 100 best minigames in one collection shown on the website and the trailer, but there are bad minigames like lucky minigames and Tug-O-War, which makes the collection horrible.
  29. Super Mario Party had its Online Mariothon mode promoted as the first online mode in a Mario Party game; however, at launch, the mode consisted of only five minigames played per round, and it would take over two-and-a-half years before full online support was finally added in an update.
  30. Forza Street never released on Xbox consoles despite Xbox publishing the announcement trailer video.
  31. Sweet merciful Jesus, where to even start with Anthem? First, there were several assets in the E3 2017 gameplay "demo" that didn't make it into the final product, such as dynamic background events, seamless hub-to-open world transitions, a bustling hub brimming with life, striders acting as moving bases, etc. None of these are actually present in the final release. On top of that, graphics were noticeably downgraded, sounds don't pack the same punch they did in the "demo", and the "My World, My Story" was filled with hyperboles and exaggerated promises, none of which were fulfilled. Notably, the "demo" also claimed it was running on the engine in real-time, but Jason Schreier's expose revealed that this "demo" wasn't even a proper demo, rather it was a proof-of-concept video that the development team cobbled together, since they didn't even know what Anthem was supposed to be at the time. Obviously, when the game finally came out, players and critics were quick to discover that the game failed to deliver on even the most conservative of promises, as well as a boring, repetitive gameplay loop with no compelling end game, and frequent technical hiccups that the final package that much harder to enjoy.
  32. Fallout 76 was hyped up by Bethesda's Todd Howard as an incredible online multiplayer Fallout game that is packed with new technology, hyperbolically hyped by infamous quotes like "16 times the detail", "brand new rendering, lighting, and landscape technology". When the game launched, it was an unprecedented disaster; riddled with bugs, glitches, performance issues, poor gameplay loop, ugly visuals, and a generally incompetently handled product. Hell, even the game's merchandise couldn't escape from false marketing!
    • The Fallout 76 $200 collector's edition, the Power Armor Edition, was also rife with false advertising; one of the advertised items was a West-Tek duffel bag made from canvas material, but customers instead received a crappy, cheap-looking nylon bag with no indication that the change was even made.
    • The Christmas-themed cosmetic items sold in the game's Atomic Shop were also guilty of false advertising; the "Comin' to Town" bundle included 12 holiday-themed emotes, Santa outfits, and a Red Mega Rocket sign (priced at $12/1,200 atoms, $20/2,000 atoms, and $14/1,400 atoms, respectively). Not only were the emotes nothing more than 12 image overlays instead of unique animations, but it was, along with the Santa outfits, deceptively sold with so-called "discounts" applied, when in fact they were sold at their discounted prices, and never sold at the original displayed price. This is illegal in many places!
    • Finally, the Nuka Dark Rum debacle; originally advertised was a uniquely shaped bottle of Fallout branded rum, the bottle having a similar rocket-shaped aesthetic to the Nuka Cola bottles in Fallout 4. For $79.99, customers were hoping to obtain a glass rocket-shaped bottle to add to their collection of memorabilia, only to be majorly disappointed to discover that the product was just a standard glass bottle with a cheap label, encased inside a cheap plastic shell that resembled what the bottle was supposed to look like.
  33. Arthur! Ready to Race had the amount of inaccurate information on the back of its box art. It includes but is not limited to: Not being able to race against the computer and solving puzzles at the Sugar Bowl, which is a place just to play the game’s soundtrack. According to shnick1990, it made him wonder who designed that game knew about the content in that game. He also says that they falsely advertise the content to the parents and guardians who might purchase it for the children, but he complies that they should know that the creators just want nothing but their cash.
  34. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe - Booster Course Pass, while being a highly acclaimed game, there are added new tracks (such as Sky-High Sundae) that contradict the Wave 1 trailer, which contains only retro tracks from the previous Mario Kart games. If new tracks were removed, there will be added missed opportunities instead such as N64 Wario Stadium (being the biggest offender), SNES Bowser Castle tracks, and DS Peach Gardens.
  35. Mario Kart Tour shows Luigi on the title screen. But in the real game, he is not there at all until the Luigi's Mansion 3 update. There are other examples of this across other games with characters featured on the box cover or title screen that aren't actually present in-game, but this has become the most well-known.
  36. Pokémon Masters EX, while being a decent game, shows Lance, Steven, Cynthia, Diantha, and Sygna Suit Red on the title screen, but they do not appear in the game (though Cynthia appears in the game, she is not playable until later during an event) until they appear as playable characters on 2020 (2021 for Diantha) during story events.
  37. Grand Chase: KurtzPel had Elesis and Arme in the trailers, but both of them are not in the game at all.
  38. Nickelodeon Kart Racers' trailer includes noticeable voiceovers for the characters, as well as some unique music and sound effects, but in the final game, there are no voiceovers.
  39. Bethesda Softworks: Like Phoenix Games, many of their games are falsely advertised due to Todd Howard, their director and executive producer and Pete Hines, their vice president being fraudulent, manipulative tricksters.
  40. Shrek: Treasure Hunt's title is misleading since you don't hunt for treasure in this game, but instead, you hunt for picnic items before Fiona arrives.
  41. Tweenies: Game Time's box says at the back "Hours of fun!", but there are only four minigames and they can all be finished within five minutes.
  42. Many of Phoenix Games' games do false advertising, some of these examples include:
    • Snow White and the 7 Clever Boys has the characters what they look like in Disney's version, but they look nothing like them. The box also shows the characters rendered in 3D, but the game's movie is animated in 2D. It also shows the evil queen as the hag, but she as the hag never appears on-screen, only as a shadow.
    • Dalmatians 3's box art shows Cruella De Vil, The Purple Fox, Pongo, and Perdita, but none of them appear in-game. The box art also shows more Dalmatians than in the actual cartoon, in which there are only five of them (Pino, Lucy, Tupfelchen, Toby and Timmy).
    • Peter Pan's box art shows the characters rendered in 3D just like in Snow White and the 7 Clever Boys's box art, but the game's movie is animated in 2D. On a side note, there is a bird standing on top of the logo that never appears in-game. It also has the characters what they look like in Disney's version but look nothing like them.
    • Pinocchio's box art, just like in the box art of Snow White and the 7 Clever Boys and Peter Pan, shows the characters rendered in 3D, but the game's movie is animated in 2D. It also shows the characters what they look like in Disney's version, but again, do not look like them at all. Also, it shows the talking cricket, but he never appears in-game.
  43. Zombieland: Double Tap – Road Trip's trailer teases online multiplayer, which the game does not have.
  44. Sega GT Online's box art states that you can transfer your cars from Sega GT 2002, but it only transfers your money and goods from the used parts shop.
  45. Game Freak infamously stated that the models for the returning Pokémon in Pokémon Sword and Shield were made from scratch. However, a major leak revealed that they're actually the exact same models used in the 3DS games.
  46. The "DRM Free" PC Version of Risen 3: Titan Lords was not DRM free, as it was shipped with ProtectDISC disk check DRM.
  47. Felix the Cat (Genesis): The game cover said it was suitable for children aged 6 or over, but some parts had gory images.
  48. Five Nights at Sonic's: The art shown in the game's thumbnail looks nothing like the game itself and is much better than the actual game.
  49. South Park Rally: Kyle's car on the front cover is blue and the license plate reads "SWEET", but his car in-game is red, and the license plate reads "SUCC ASS" instead. Cop Cartman is featured prominently on the cover as if he were a default character, but he is unlockable in-game. Lastly, Kenny's bumper is purple on the cover, but blue in-game.
  50. Shrek Swamp Kart Speedway: Shrek is seen in the cover driving on a car that is wooden. The game however depicts Shrek driving on a generic orange car. Donkey is also seen wearing sunglasses and is prominent on the cover, but he's unlockable as if someone forgot that Donkey was an unlockable character. Also, donkey, does not wear sunglasses in the game.
  51. 007 Racing: The title states that it is a "racing game" but in reality, it's a game that plays like twisted metal.
  52. The Last of Us Part II: Killed off Joel this early in the prologue, despite the fact that the trailers depict him following Ellie during her quest to find and kill the people who wronged her and asked her if she would be doing this on her own.
  53. Just Dance 2021: There are some unused coaches in some promotional material like Run the World (Girls), similar to how the PAL Covers have coaches that don't appear in the game like Let's get it Started from Just Dance 2.
  54. Voyage Into the Unknown: It is said to have been developed by Tim Steel for Amoeba Software, but no connection to them seemingly exists, meaning that whoever programmed the game was desperately trying to frame them making the game even though they didn't.
  55. The 3D Adventures of Sailor Moon: The front cover of the game has eight official screenshots on it and one of them has a model on it which is better than the real game and you can read on the back of the box that the game uses the latest 3D technology, when the graphics look terrible even for those times.
    • Not only the graphics, the audio is also covered by false advertising, because on the back cover you can read that in the whole game will be played dub music, when in fact in the whole game almost all the time are played MIDI loops that don't even sound similar to the dub music.
  56. Red Steel: On the back of the box, there's a screenshot of a level that's not in the game, it's actually the level that was seen at E3 2006.
  57. Shrek Extra Large: Donkey is seen on the game's cover art, but he is never seen nor mentioned at all in the game.
  58. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Remastered: On the back of the box, the screenshots are from the original version of the game and not the "remaster", thus hiding its poor quality. In other words, the entire box is unchanged.
  59. Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania: While being a great game, featuring Banana Splitz in the art book and the reversible cover of the Japanese box art, but none of this game featured in the Nintendo E3 2021 trailer. Another one shows the Switch version of Sky Downtown (Monkey Race's Night or Monkey Mall stage) featuring a building and a palm tree in the HUD menu, but they do not appear in-game due to poor optimizations made to this version of the game.
  60. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl: Porygon-Z was shown using Hyper Beam in the initial trailer implying that it will appear in the base game, but it unlocks in the post-game since these are faithful remakes.
  61. Sonic Forces: On the back of the box of the PS4 Version, it says it's "PS4 Pro Enhanced" yet there are no performance differences when played on a PS4 Pro.
  62. Gran Turismo 7: When the first trailer was announced they claimed that would bring back offline save. But in reality, the game requires internet connection to access career mode and save the game limiting to Arcade Mode just like in the previous game.
  63. Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp: The splash art featuring Junko, Chiaki, Byakuya, Komaru, and Kokichi in swimsuits does not appear in the final version of the game and are drastically different. Byakuya and Kokichi are even depicted with abs, but just like their swimsuits, they are not seen with abs in any of their sprites. The trailers are also misleading as well, featuring an "all-star" cast of characters from each game title. Yuta, Taichi, and Haiji all from Ultra Despair Girls are strangely missing from this game.
  64. Shadow the Hedgehog: The gun that Shadow is holding on the box art never appears at all in the actual game.
  65. Grand Theft Auto V Expanded and Enhanced (PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S port): The PlayStation Showcase 2021 Trailer marketed the "seamless character switching" to take advantage of the PS5 and Series X/S' SSD storage. Not counting the missions (such as Prologue) where two to three characters has to switch in the same area position, it is never implemented as only slightly (to in-par of the PS4/Xbox One/PC ports) shorter load times to another playable character.
  66. Evertale: The advertisements for this game show that the game was gonna be a dark, gritty, and gorey Pokémon RPG game, but that is never the actual game, and instead, it’s just a generic waifu Gacha game with no substance or horror elements added whatsoever.
  67. The Legend of Dark Witch Renovation: While it is still a great game and a decent remaster, the game's trailer stated you could read all the comics and watch every single anime episode released in-game (at that point in time). While this was true for the anime, this wasn't true for the comics. There were over 50 strips produced, yet you only see 9 in-game.
  68. Chocobo GP: Players can see Cloud Strife in the pop-up where they can buy him in the prize pass, but he is unlocked when they reach level 60 in the Chocobo GP mode.
  69. Pocoyo Party: The trailers for the game advertised it as the first Pocoyo console game, when it's actually the third.
  70. Watch Dogs is one of the worst falsely advertised games in the mid 2010s. The E3 trailer depicts the game with high quality graphics, but the graphics were downgraded in the final game. Hell, Ubisoft didn't even bother to upgrade the graphics for next-gen consoles, despite the game being released after the PS4 and Xbox One. After modders discovered that the E3-styled graphics were in the game's files for the PC version, Ubisoft later released a patch that removed the E3 graphic setting.

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