No Man’s Sky, one of the most controversial games in 2016, has been Hello Games’ biggest hit, and simultaneously the biggest thorn in its side. Since launch, players have been up in arms about how oversold the game was by its lead developer, Sean Murray, as well as issues like content from E3 and Sony’s press event not making it into the final game. Mass refunds even happened for a while, and saw about 50,000 players refunding the game through Steam.
But somehow, incredibly, the game’s sales continue to climb up past the 700,000 unit mark, inching closer to a million copies in half a year. Thanks to this, and other issues stemming from the game’s launch, the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) will be looking into the game’s advertising following a number of consumer complaints made to the organisation. This could result in Hello Games temporarily being unable to sell No Man’s Sky in Europe if the ASA’s judgement is not favourable.
The investigation was launched from an official complaint by Reddit user “AzzerUK”, who notified the EASA that several parts of the game’s advertising on its Steam store page were misleading or inaccurate, and may contravene some laws that pertain to how a product may be advertised. The complaint relates only to the game’s appearance on the Steam store, but any resulting finding from the EASA would apply to any place where the game and the misleading assets and text may appear, including it’s appearance on Good Old Games as well as the PlayStation Store. In particular, the following are noted by the EASA in complaints they’ve received so far:
- User interface design
- Ship flying behaviour (in formation; with a ‘wingman’; flying close to the ground)
- Behaviour of animals (in herds; destroying scenery; in water; reacting to surroundings)
- Large-scale space combat
- Structures and buildings as pictured
- Flowing water
- Speed of galaxy warp/loading time
- Aiming systems
- Size of creatures (9)
- Behaviour of ships and sentinels (4, 5 and 8)
- Structures and buildings as pictured (3)
Store page in general:
- Quality of graphics
- References to: lack of loading screens, trade convoys between stars, factions vying over territory
Speaking to Eurogamer via Reddit, AzzerUK told Eurogamer that his actions weren’t malicious or targeting Hello Games, but rather taken to ensure that something would actually get done. “I figured that if we want Steam store pages for games to start falling in-line and stop misleading consumers, then it would take consumers to point these problems out to the ASA, rather than all sit around on Reddit complaining to each other but assuming that it’ll all get sorted by itself eventually,” he said.
The thread about the investigation on Reddit has received almost 900 comments, which isn’t as big as the recent blow-up between Lenovo and Linux users, but the response is unexpectedly so-so. There’s not a lot of anger from Hello Games fanboys, and there’s generally an overwhelming sense that most of the players expected it. No Man’s Sky had the potential to be the game of the decade, but it let down so many people that it’s possible that Hello Games will never recover from the bad press surrounding it.
Investigations of this nature typically take a few weeks to resolve, so we’ll know more by the end of next month (October 2016) what the outcome is. A lot of players content that a judgement against Hello Games would prevent developers from improving and patching the game, but this isn’t the case – they can still issue patches, fixes, and new content to players that already own the game, but they’ll have to amend any and all of their advertising material that the EASA finds misleading.