Was No Man’s Sky Falsely Advertised By Hello Games?

Hello Games is under investigation for falsely advertising the nature and state of their game, No Man’s Sky. Is there no end to the madness? The United Kingdom’s ASA – Advertising Standards Authority – had received numerous complains regarding Hello Games’ title, and how the game is allegedly unfaithful to the company’s promises and advertising.

Does Hello Games have a reason to worry about the investigation? Well, this last week saw the ASA hand out twelve rulings: 8 were upheld, 3 were not upheld, and 1 was upheld-in-part. In September alone, the ASA had 33 rulings, most of them upheld. A ruling of “upheld” finds a company violating a certain restriction or parameter, deemed illegal by the host-country. Thus, an “upheld” ruling would find Hello Games guilty of misleading their audience.

While the ASA is no slouch about doing its business, a mostly “upheld” track record could also lead people to believe that the organization is unfairly harsh about their verdicts. It is fair to say that people could have a worry that Hello Games might find themselves with a guilty verdict, simply because of numerous, yet unfair, complaints about their game. It would be kind of like tasting wine at a restaurant and sending the bottle back because you “didn’t like it”. Or…how about this video?

For the record, I laughed. I laughed hard and long. I’ve played No Man’s Sky and can relate to this 100%. That being said, this is one video, done in a comedic fashion, that has large potential to bring a very unsavory verdict toward Hello Games. However, I still think that the ASA has a fair and objective process, that should help filter the bias from the facts.

A complaint brought up a two-issue investigation against Zenimax, for their advertising of Wolfenstein: The New Order. However, common sense ruled the day, when site statistics showed that 96.89% of the website’s viewership, in May 2014, was age 18 and over. This lead to a decision of not upholding the complaint, as there were also plenty of instances that a reasonable person could have opted to not watch the video.

no man's sky
An overwhelmingly negative user rating does not a guilty verdict make

Objectively speaking, we and Hello Games need to look at what was promised, what is promised, and what is reasonable to hold No Man’s Sky accountable for.

The video shows what was being promised to players. However, what we saw at the end was only one instance for one person. Furthermore, it was obviously a graphical glitch that isn’t reflective of what the game purports to supply for an experience. The problem with graphical glitches is that they tend to be trial-by-fire fixes. You can vet an entire game, and still get glitches past launch. That being said, what can be commented on is the colour and vibrancy of the trailer’s video and location, compared to the wash-out colour and sparsely  generated fauna of the latter part of the video. If the whole galaxy was that barren and desolate, I would be ashamed to call the Milky Way home.

Suffice it to say, Hello Games has a huge thing to fall-back on, and that is the procedurally-generated nature of their game. It isn’t that the entire game is like the bipedal quasi-dinosaur, it’s that you simply haven’t traveled far enough, or visited the right planet to experience that game environment. In that respect, Hello Games is right.

Technically speaking, everything on their steam-page has been faithfully accounted for. Sure, developers and creators have flip-flopped on what would ultimately be in the game. They did this almost right up until launch. However, it seemed as if some care was taken to ensure that whatever was written was what would be guaranteed. I’m not sure what the No Man’s Sky investigation will result in, but there is a very good chance that it might not be upheld. If only because anybody that spent the money, already had it refunded. Undoubtedly, such a decision would be to the chagrin of many gamers. However, with any failed promises already “fixed” – as in: taken off the store page – the only thing that the Hello Games seems to be left to do is remove their trailer video, or put up a disclaimer during it. Honestly, who would that really please?

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