The UK-based Advertising Standards Agency is investigating developer Hello Games and No Man's Sky based on one player's formal complaint concerning discrepancies between the game's marketing materials and final product (via PC Gamer).
Reddit user AzzerUK filed his complaint after taking stock of promotional materials such as information on No Man's Sky's Steam page, trailers, and screenshots, and contrasting them with how the game turned out. That's when he enlisted help from the ASA, an entity that exists to investigate UK consumers' complaints related to advertisements, promotions, and marketing.
"I can't speak about other countries, but in the UK [there] are regulations about providing advertising material that could mislead a consumer in some way—[for example] displaying things that do not, in fact, exist,” the user wrote. “The ASA say they have received a number of complaints, and so the points below are not necessarily all related to things I personally took issue with, but are the issues they have picked out at the most clear-cut problems from amongst all complaints."
The ASA responded with alacrity. Representatives contacted both Hello Games and Valve, and asked them to explain issues such as UI design, combat, the behavior of certain units such as ships and sentinels, aiming systems, the size of creatures, and the speed of loading times and galaxy warp—just some of the issues with which AzzerUK took umbrage.
"We will ensure the advertisers are made aware of any points relating to other marketing material under their control (such as the Hello Games YouTube channel and website)," the ASA wrote back to AzzerUK. "The outcomes of ASA investigations are cross-applicable to other marketing making the same claims, so any decision reached in relation to the Steam page would apply to other advertising for No Man’s Sky where the same (or materially similar) claims appear."
You can view the full list of issues on AzzerUK's Reddit post.
Although the ASA lacks the power to enforce legislation, it does have the authority to compel companies to remove advertisements if they violate the organization's code of advertising practice. In other words, should the ASA find that AzzerUK's complaint has merit, it could force Valve and Hello Games to respond to its inquiries and pull misleading materials. If they don't, the ASA would have the power to force sanctions.
ASA's investigation is ongoing.
In an interview with Eurogamer, AzzerUK explained that he's more disappointed than rabid with anger over how No Man's Sky turned out, and that he filed his complaint in an effort to get more game developers to market their games honestly.
"I figured that if we want Steam store pages for games to start falling in-line and stop misleading consumers, then it would take consumers to point these problems out to the ASA, rather than all sit around on Reddit complaining to each other but assuming that it'll all get sorted by itself eventually."
Dissatisfaction with No Man's Sky continues to mount. At this year's Tokyo Game Show, Sony president Shuhei Yoshida said that although he enjoyed the game, "I understand some of the criticisms especially Sean Murray is getting, because he sounded like he was promising more features in the game from day one. It wasn't a great PR strategy, because he didn't have a PR person helping him, and in the end he is an indie developer. But he says their plan is to continue to develop No Man's Sky features and such, and I'm looking forward to continuing to play the game.