European gaming news reported on 9/28 that No Man’s Sky would be investigated by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority or ASA. Implications are that developer Hello Games and specifically Valve’s steam page displayed images and text about the game, that are not included in the original release and were misleading to the customer. Multiple complaints have been filed, and the group has launched their investigation. This new turn of events, coupled with the tumultuous history of the game, are just the latest in the line of issue plaguing this open universe exploring game. So does Hello Games deserve this investigation? Absolutely not.
Let’s first talk about the ASA. They are an independent organization, and per their website, they regulate and uphold advertisers across all media to a certain standards. The site has been active since 2011 and they have numerous rulings in their favor, on various complaints across all forms of media – including TV, social Media, websites etc. They have won several claims, lost others – one of the notable ones was a TV ad for The Conjuring 2 being shown too early and young children saw the trailer. Various rulings in favor reflect changing of ads, removing of ads, or in the case of the movie – having the ad shown at more appropriate times. They are in effect a watch dog group and consistently monitor media for violations but also rely on the public to submit formal complaints. From what I can tell, they only operate and rulings are only upheld in the United Kingdom.
So what of the complaint. Reddit user “AzzerUK” was the user that basically said, the advertisements on Hello Games and specifically the Steam page were misleading. It should be pointed out, that he has purchased the game and not requested a refund. I will talk about refunds in a little bit. The ASA responded and upheld that yes – the images/trailers on the page were misleading, and did not reflect the content in the game as it stands today. Images included large creatures, grandiose space battles, pictures of various structures, loading screens/times, etc. ASA has ruled that Hello Games and Valve were in violation, and as far as UK advertising – they will have to take it down or modify the media. The full report is on AzzerUKs Reddit post.
So what impact will this have on the game? Not much. The game has already sold, people have voiced their opinions on the game – all this has left to do, is tarnish the record of Hello Games. A record that is plagued with complaints, refunds and attacks on blog posts. Average rating on the game is favorable, with Metacritic giving 71%, and IGN 6/10. However the game has been inundated with numerous complaints and various issues (frequent crashes and other in game bugs) that the public will forever see the game in a negative light. But is that fair? I hear the word fraud and defrauding, tricking and deceiving being thrown around in this case of the game – but is that really an issue? We have all seen the trailers and heard the press conferences and interviews on the game. I have personally watched Twitch streamers play for hours on end. On their website they detail what the game is: a game about exploration and survival in an infinite and procedurally generated galaxy. So what is to say that all the images we have seen may not be in the game somewhere? One of the definitions of Fraud is “an act of deceiving or misrepresenting”. So is that really what has been done here?
A few weeks after the release of the game, a “movement” of sorts started and folks started to request refunds. As we gamers know, that is a gigantic hill to climb, usually with the end result as a trade in or selling of the “used” game at 85% of original value (figures not 100% accurate). Sony, Amazon and Valve saw a massive increase in the number of users asking for refunds. Sony and Amazon held their grounds, to their policies, which was basically – if you are having technical issues, trouble shoot first – if not resolved, full refund. Well unfortunately the plea of “this isn’t the game I thought it would be” was not an effective reason for refunds, and players virtually had no chance. Valve, through their Steam client, modified their policy, and refunded gamers their money shortly after the Reddit post. I take issue with this decision as the revised policy states that no matter how long you have played the game, they will give you a full refund. There have been a few games that I regret paying for, either full price (I’m looking at you L.A. Noire) or discounted. But never have I ever asked for a refund in any way, because – I did my research or viewed the media presented and made a decision to buy said game. With all of the press released and their direction on the website itself – I’m standing firm that if the game isn’t exactly what you wanted, too bad. Do more research, wait till the game is out for a bit, never pre-order – these are all ways you can prevent yourself from making a bad choice. And if you do decide to make that choice – live with it. I chose to buy L.A. Noire – and regretted it 100% – it just wasn’t the game I thought, or wanted it to be – my opinion and can be discussed later. But I played through it and moved on.
I’ll end with some numbers. I will share with you statistics from Steam Spy, a site that takes actual data from Steam and reports accordingly. They report that there are around 775,000 total players that own the game, but only about 98,000 have played in the last 2 weeks, only about 13% of players remain – some would say that is the indication of a bad game. No Man’s Sky was the biggest Steam launch this year, with over 200,000 sold in the first 24 hours. Sony reported it as one of the bigger sellers, coming close to Uncharted 4. Hello Games is a UK Based company of only about 15 people, this is their first major release from the group. Sean Murray has stated that patches will be released soon with new content coming for the game, and other changes. There is also news that an Xbox One version will be released.
What are you experiences with the game? Did you feel robbed and felt you deserved a refund? How would, if you developed the game, done it differently? How about intensions to buy the game after all of the dust settles? Are you done pre-ordering? I for one, will be waiting for an Xbox One release, in which I will re-evaluate and most likely buy the game. Make sure to share your comments and opinions below, and let’s keep it civilized. And as always follow ThisGenGaming on Twitter @TGGamingReviews for all the news, reviews and commentaries in the gaming industry.