In the months and weeks leading up to Hello Games' mega release of No Man’s Sky, the anticipation for the game had reached near fever-pitch levels. Practically all those with an interest in space exploration games – as well as those from all walks of the gaming spectrum -- were counting down the days for a sci-fi adventure that promised an infinite procedurally generated galaxy and much, much more.
But when the game was released this past August, problems immediately became evident. Hello Games Sean Murray had been quite active prior to the game’s release; heading up a PR campaign that many now argue was misleading. Much of what Murray promised to gamers didn’t actually ship with the game and although the days and weeks after the release of No Man’s Sky were filled with updates and patch notes from Hello Games, Murray’s Twitter account has been silent since August.
As if things weren’t already bad enough, a new effort by No Man’s Sky gamers in the United Kingdom has taken the entire matter to the legal level. Gamezone is reporting that after receiving a substantial amount of complaints about the game’s failure to match the promises of its advertising campaign, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is now investigating both Hello Games and the Valve Corporation for false advertising. According to Reddit user AzzerUK who forwarded the initial complaint to ASA:
“I can't speak about other countries, but in the UK [there] are regulations about providing advertising material that could mislead a consumer in some way—[for example] displaying things that do not, in fact, exist. The ASA say they have received a number of complaints, and so the points below are not necessarily all related to things I personally took issue with, but are the issues they have picked out at the most clear-cut problems from amongst all complaints.
“In the ASA response, they say that both Hello Games and Valve have a joint responsibility, and so both organisations have now been contacted by the ASA and have been told to respond to the following issues which the ASA picked out as the primary issues (compiled from a number of complainants that contacted the ASA).”
The ASA can’t actually interpret or enforce legislation, but it still wields a significant degree of power. Should Hello Games and Valve be found guilty of breaching the ASA’s code of advertising practices, any adverts that contain the offending material will be removed and will no longer be able to be used again. If Hello Games or Valve fail to respond to a guilty verdict on the part of the ASA and do not remove the material deemed misleading, sanctions could follow against both organizations.
As of this writing, the number of No Man’s Sky players on Steam has dropped below 1,000. Sean Murray's vision for gaming is an exciting one, but hopefully the consumer response and investigation will allow the developer to learn from the mistakes that have been made and still come out of it all with an eye toward a more positive and dependable gaming future.
No Man’s Sky is available on PC and PS4.