As reported in the last day on sites including Engadget and Polygon, Hello Games and Steam are being taken to task over false advertising of No Man’s Sky by the UK’s governing body. The original post from Reddit can be found here which details one particular complaint.
Is the developer to blame?
A lot of the anger has been directed to Hello Games’ Sean Murray, who has been the face of the developer ever since the game was first announced. With numerous appearances at games events and demonstrations of No Man’s Sky on television, his words have been used against him with accusations of overpromising.
There’s a lot of truth in that but I think a lot of it comes from a guy who was put under the media spotlight totally unprepared. After impressing everyone with early demos, he was placed on a pedestal with adoring press and fans listening on every word he said. Being under that much attention probably made him very mindful of what he would say and so instead of disappointing people about non-existent features he began to give those “maybe” kind of answers in an attempt to let them down gently. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work that way.
The impression I got was there wasn’t a whole lot done on the PR front to help him learn to deal better with questions. After the amount of time between the game’s announcement and its launch, someone must have noticed what was going on and should have tried to assist the Hello Games team in sticking to a message.
Post launch Hello Games have been quietly pushing out updates to No Man’s Sky and have been getting those early technical issues well and truly behind them. No big content updates as yet but when they arrive I think it will show to the gaming public whether or not they are truly committed to delivering on those big promises.
Is the publisher to blame?
Steam has been the one getting in trouble in the above articles in relation to the advertisements but they weren’t the ones that originally began the process of over hyping the game. That ball lands squarely in Sony’s court.
It was Sony who pushed the game as being a AAA title coming from a small indie studio and were responsible for a great deal of the advertising. It’s very likely they also advised on selling the game at a AAA price point too.
Though Hello Games have said that Sony had little involvement with the game, it seems hard to believe a big company like them would be so blind to what could be perceived as fundamental issues with how it is being advertised. In the very least their marketing experts should have been able to impart some advice to Sean Murray on how to better handle questions.
In the end it seems they were happy to get their cut of the game sales and then distance themselves from the whole situation quickly. Were they blindsided by the negative response or are they just cutting their losses?
Are we to blame?
Lastly, should we feel a little bit responsible for reading too much from a developer who obviously was not all that comfortable in the spotlight? With delays to a game being pushed as a platform (perhaps even generation) defining title the developers were under the kinds of pressure to deliver normally reserved for massive studios.
It probably didn’t help though that the PS4 game was also leaked prior to launch, exposing the game’s limitations long before the day one patch attempted to address it. Excitement for the game made this news massive clickbait and the negative impressions even more so. All the reports coming from those early playthroughs would certainly have impacted player expectations.
I can admit to being excited by my own initial impressions of the game and if it weren’t also a PC game too I might have bought a PS4 just to get my hands on it. A galaxy to explore like Elite Dangerous but with a stronger focus on action and the planet side aspects seemed like a good complement to that game. That it is technically possible still amazes me even now. It’s a shame it didn’t turn out to be everything I had hoped but it has kept me occupied for a fair few hours.
The combination of hype and disappointment have made Hello Games and Sean Murray the tallest of poppies to cut down; it might continue to be this way for a while longer until we see the game patched and hopefully bringing it closer to everyone’s expectations.
I’m not trying to get the developers totally off the hook with the issues surrounding No Man’s Sky but do feel that there was enough going on around the game that also contributed to the situation as it stands now.
So what I think we had here was a developer who couldn’t say “No”, a publisher who elevated the game to AAA status when it should have known better and a public so excited by the hype that they may have been blinded by it early on then ruined when the game leaked.
I still have my copy of the game. The art design continues to strike a chord with me and though it isn’t getting as much play time as expected I am incredibly curious to see where it might go on the future.
No Man’s Sky is out now for PC and PlayStation 4. Opinions here are my own – happy to hear your own thoughts in the comments.