No topic in the gaming industry seems more polarizing today than No Man’s Sky. Whether you love or hate it, if you’re a gamer, you likely have an opinion on the much lofted and recently maligned title from Hello Games. The extreme amount of hype leading up to the release of No Man’s Sky brought a lot of consumers into the fold, and a vast majority of them aren’t happy with the product they were delivered. So when the news, as reported by theInquisitr, came out that Sony and Amazon were offering returns on No Man’s Sky, it was met with mixed opinions. Many praise the ability for consumers to have power over their purchase, while others have decried the move as a way to “entitle” gamers. Should these companies be offering refunds on No Man’s Sky?
The largest concern for gamers is getting a product that is representative of the marketing they were sold on. No Man’s Sky is an example of a product so nebulous that many gamers hadn’t a clear idea of what it truly entailed. The messaging from Hello Games founder Sean Murray didn’t help either, as a lengthy Reddit post points out. The post details every interview and feature that Murray either confirmed, or was shown at various shows and interviews. While many of the items on the list made it into the final release, a large majority are simply absent from the product sold to consumers. Yet, leading up to release there was no indication of these features missing or being pulled from the game.
So does this mean that consumers were sold the product they were marketed? It depends on how you viewed No Man’s Sky from the beginning. Many people really do feel as though it’s representative of the marketing. Yet when you run down the list of quotes and missing material it’s pretty telling. No Man’s Sky simply isn’t the same game that people were shown. That doesn’t mean people can’t enjoy what they bought, yet there should be some clarity into what exactly you were sold on. While many will argue that differences in what gamers see at trade shows, such as the Electronic Entertainment Expo and others, are commonplace (one only has to look at Watch_Dogs in 2012 versus the release), this doesn’t mean that the type of behavior running rampant in games marketing should go unchecked. Normally, issues like this are communicated to gamers before the launch of the title, or the marketing changes enough over the course of the lead up to release that it can be clearly seen. In the case of No Man’s Sky, Sean Murray was still claiming features were in the game that simply aren’t a month prior to its inevitable release. Since release, there has been pretty much zero communication from the game’s team to address the issues and missteps in the marketing.
The refund policy on Sony’s website is worded a bit weird, but the gist of it is that delivered digital goods are not eligible for refunds if they have been downloaded or the product has been streamed. Basically, it doesn’t give you a lot of leeway in terms of returning a product that isn’t representative of the marketing.
Amazon clearly states that digital goods are not returnable. Physical copies don’t fare much better, as many stores have policies against returning opened products. This doesn’t leave a lot of power in the hands on consumers when games like No Man’s Sky release. A lot of those against the move point out that consumers should have done more research and been more discerning. While it’s true that consumers should always do their research, it’s extremely hard to do so when the consumer-facing message doesn’t match the final product. Denying consumer rights in this instance only further allows publishers and developers to lie in their marketing with no tangible recourse. By allowing the refunds, it gives power to the consumer to hold developers and publishers responsible for their tactics in selling their product.
Does this mean that it can be abused? Sure, someone asking for a full refund on No Man’s Sky who has put 72 hours or so into the game does seem a bit ridiculous. Typically, you know relatively quickly whether you like a game or not. Protections should be there to mitigate abuses to the system. However, to deny completely the ability to request and obtain a refund is frankly anti-consumer. With No Man’s Sky as an example, this will hopefully help to make consumers more aware to be more cautious of what they are being told by marketing and others, as well as give them the ability to exercise their consumer right and hold publishers accountable when the outcome of the product doesn’t match the advertising.
All in all, seeing consumers being able to exercise their rights and hold companies accountable is a good thing. No Man’s Sky is an ambitious game that does falter when it’s held up to the marketing and interviews leading up its release. By using the No Man’s Sky debacle as an example, it gives any marketer or developer a little bit of pause before crafting their message to be sure it meets the actual expectations gamers can expect come release. And that, in the long run, will be good for everyone involved in the industry.
[Image via Hello Games]