It has been a rough couple of months for No Man’s Sky, one of the most anticipated game releases of this year. Despite strong sales, the game came under fire from the community for not delivering the experience that was advertised. This sentiment is coming to a head now as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), after receiving several “complaints” from the community, has announced that it will begin an investigation of the game.
No details have been given for what exactly will be investigated although we can glean some information from the ASA’s response to a Reddit user’s complaint. According to the user AzzerUK both Valve, the company responsible for the game’s digital distribution on the PC, and developer Hello Games are being investigated due to a “joint responsibility.” The response to AzzerUK also detailed the game’s most common complaints. Criticisms focus on the promotional materials found on Valve’s distribution system, Steam. One of the main points of emphasis are videos that depict a radically different user interface, “large-scale space battles,” significantly shorter load times, and more complex animal behavior. Screenshots that do not accurately represent the structures and buildings found in-game or the size of creatures will be looked at as well. Finally, Steam’s in-store description of the game claims superior graphics than what the game is capable of as well as making reference to “lack of loading screens, trade convoys between stars, and factions vying over territory,” all of which are not present in the game. The result of this accusation could be the removal of the videos, screenshots, and description in question as well as resultant penalties for both Hello Games and Valve.
No Man’s Sky is currently in a strange state. The game is a black sheep in the gaming community for the reasons described above. Sean Murray, the founder of Hello Games, stated that they are continuing to work on the game. Perhaps the developer will add the promised features in later updates. Although the discrepancy between what No Man’s Sky promises and its final product may be significant, this game’s story does not sound much different than those of other highly-anticipated games that failed to live up to their hype. Many game developers promise features that are ultimately left on the cutting room floor or are rendered in such a way that they fail to engender excitement. The question facing No Man’s Sky is whether the developers crossed a line in manipulating this hype machine. One way or the other, only time will tell if the game will be remembered, forgotten, or emblazoned in the minds of gamers as a cautionary tale. The result of this investigation could have a significant effect on that outcome.