A No Man’s Sky false advertising investigation has come to a favorable close for developer Hello Games. No Man’s Sky has had its share of problems since releasing last August. Besides the mixed critical reviews and the terrible consumer assessments, the independent development studio was facing accusations of false or misleading advertising in the Steam Store. In September, the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) launched an investigation into allegations that Hello Games and Valve had misrepresented the game in marketing materials.
Specifically, the ASA told the BBC that the developers and distributor were being accused of promising particular game features “that were not present in the final release.”
The accusations came primarily from disgruntled No Man’s Sky purchasers who had been demanding refunds from the Steam Store, which is operated by Valve Corporation. Users felt that they were misled primarily by Hello Games co-founder, Sean Murray, who had made several false claims regarding various features of the title.
In one interview Murray was asked if players would be able to meet up and battle within the game, to which he responded, “yes.” However, in several other interviews where he made similar statements, he also pointed out that with over 18 quintillion planets and each person being placed randomly in the galaxy, the chances of encountering another player will be rare.
The ASA was not looking solely into multiplayer functionality complaints. No Man’s Sky faced a host of other false advertising charges ranging from a “lack of space combat” to “issues piloting spacecraft.” Many, if not most of the grievances stemmed from a 2014 trailer for the game that displayed many features that indeed did not make it into the final release.
It seems that the question in this case was, can Hello Games be guilty of false advertising by releasing an early glimpse of a work in progress that was not due for release for another two years? The logical answer seems obvious, but situations like this are precisely why agencies like the Brittish ASA were created.
After more than a month of investigation, the ASA has ruled that No Man’s Sky did not violate any advertising standards in the Steam Store or elsewhere.
According to Digital Trends, “Hello Games asserted that due to the game’s procedural generation, it was unlikely that players would encounter the exact scenarios displayed on the game’s Steam page.”
Developers also explained that the part of the game description that states that “factions would be vying for territory” is describing the narrative of the lore and not gameplay.
The ASA has sided with the independent developer finding that no false or misleading advertising has occurred. The agency issued a statement with its determination.
“We understood that, as No Man’s Sky was procedurally generated, player experiences would vary according to what material was generated in their play-through. We understood that the user interface design and the aiming system has undergone cosmetic changes since the footage for the videos was first recorded. However, we did not consider that these elements would affect a consumer’s decision to purchase the game, as they were superficial and incidental components in relation to the core gameplay mechanics and features.”
The ASA indicated that Hello Games was cooperative during the investigation, providing footage and input when requested. Footage of large-scale space battles seemed consistent with those seen in the trailers.
While developers were unable to provide footage “replicating the more complex animal and foliage behavior seen in earlier trailers,” the ASA deemed it “unlikely in itself to influence materially a consumer’s decision to purchase the game.”
Digital Trends reported that claims against No Man’s Sky’s “graphical fidelity” and assertions against its claim of “no loading screens” were also shot down by the agency.
“Technical claims involving graphical fidelity were also considered non-misleading, as this could vary depending on a user’s PC — should they be using the platform — and a ‘no loading screens’ assertion was also found to be accurate as No Man’s Sky‘s ‘warping’ mechanic was consistent with the game’s tone and did not break immersion.”
The favorable ASA decision comes directly on the heels of No Man’s Sky’s first major update, which was rolled out last Sunday. The “Foundation Update,” as it is called, adds many new features to the game including base building, revamped inventory structure, alien recruitment, cargo freighters, and more. The feature-rich update is “the first of many” coming to the game according to the company. Hello Games is certainly hoping to turn this positive momentum into something it can use to make a comeback from a very lackluster reception.
[Featured Image by Hello Games]