No Man's Sky is under investigation for misleading advertising

An advertising regulator in the UK is looking into the veracity of the game's promotional materials.


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.

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at and @davidlcraddock.

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From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 28, 2016 2:07 PM

    David Craddock posted a new article, No Man's Sky is under investigation for misleading advertising

    • reply
      September 28, 2016 2:29 PM

      Seems like a pretty reasonable response, honestly.

    • reply
      September 28, 2016 2:30 PM

      Honestly, I have no problem with this. If they want to use features in advertising, those features better be in the game.

      • reply
        September 28, 2016 3:27 PM

        It's not an issue in previews and promotionals on YouTube and their own site, but on store pages like on Steam where they were promoting it on there so someone will buy the game, that's not right. If they had removed it from the store page a few months before release, it wouldn't be an issue, but it was left up there leading up to and after the game came out.

        • reply
          September 28, 2016 4:10 PM

          You don't think their own website and other official channels are just as bad, or nearly as bad, as the steam store page?

          • reply
            September 28, 2016 5:15 PM

            It's stupid but not as egregious as false advertising on a store page. On their website and official channels it's obvious as promotional and preview purposes, but on store pages it should reflect the product you're buying.

            • reply
              September 28, 2016 5:39 PM

              This seems like a ridiculous line to draw. I bet many people look at their website and then immediately go buy it elsewhere, like Steam.

    • reply
      September 28, 2016 2:32 PM

      I think a whole lot of the controversy in this game is overblown. That said, no one has found any giant space worms yet...

      • reply
        September 28, 2016 2:37 PM

        That's on the billion if planets no one has seen yet

    • reply
      September 28, 2016 2:58 PM

      i think the bigger outcome from this will be less developers talking details about their game still under development.

      • reply
        September 28, 2016 3:00 PM

        I'm okay with that, all the more to discover for those of us that don't have the will for media blackouts! Imagine how different the NMS metacritic rating would be if it just DROPPED or was announced a week before it came out?

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          September 28, 2016 4:17 PM

          it would have sold 16 copies and none of this would have mattered anyway.

      • reply
        September 28, 2016 3:13 PM

        Talking about features is fine as long as there is no implicit promise or create a set of expectations. Once you start showing off features in promotional trailers or start refering to those features you need to deliver on it. If there a disclaimer either in the footage or the interview itself this wouldn't be an issue.

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          September 28, 2016 4:10 PM

          Your first two sentences seem completely contradictory. This is why devs will talk less. A disclaimer will do nothing. I bet plenty of NMS footage and previews had disclaimers about how these are alpha/beta/preview bits.

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            September 28, 2016 6:10 PM

            I think the problem with NMS was they were vague and implied gameplay expectations, and therefore features. That completely circumvented the usual situations where you already see or read disclaimers like that.

            • reply
              September 28, 2016 6:11 PM

              ^^^although I personally don't think this was done to hoodwink anyone maliciously.

              If you called it out of control hype, that'd seem pretty accurate to me.

              • reply
                September 28, 2016 6:29 PM

                yeah it just doesn't seem especially unique to me in the game industry

      • reply
        September 28, 2016 3:29 PM

        If Sony is offering you a stage to promote your game, you'd be an idiot not to take the opportunity.

        • reply
          September 28, 2016 10:08 PM

          They went to a guy who had nearly vanquished his life savings with a check and business deal. Dude was in a vulnerable state and took the offer to survive.

      • reply
        September 28, 2016 4:20 PM

        That's actually good to prevent boasting and pping and dumping.

      • reply
        September 28, 2016 5:46 PM

        Plenty of developers are able to talk about their game pre release with no issues. Its all about how you do it.

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          September 29, 2016 2:33 AM

          Yup. That comes with experience, but also these guys clearly needed better guidance, ideally an internal comms person with several rodeos under their belt.

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        September 28, 2016 5:48 PM

        Wont change anything. Peter Molenouxyicxksitch would have caused this years ago.

        • reply
          September 28, 2016 5:50 PM

          Fuck that guy... WHERE ARE MY FABLE TREES THAT GROW?!

      • reply
        September 28, 2016 10:07 PM

        Or put their money where their mouth is and show it if they have it.

    • reply
      September 28, 2016 3:35 PM

      I'm OK with this because it may stop other devs (UBI, Gearbox) from posting fake shit all the time

    • reply
      September 28, 2016 3:38 PM

      The only thing I agree with about this is the Steam page still features the 2? year old E3 trailer that is representative of gameplay but not graphics of the final build. They're pretty stupid for leaving that up.

      Aside from that, it's 2016. Watch a video to see exactly the game you're gonna get, shit's not hard. Trust marketing at your own peril.

    • reply
      September 28, 2016 4:28 PM

      how accurate was I with this prediction?

    • reply
      September 28, 2016 5:54 PM

      I found it funny because a lot of the hype came from Sony lording the game over Microsoft.

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      September 28, 2016 10:09 PM

      Hello games must be preparing a lawsuit patch..

    • reply
      September 29, 2016 2:18 AM

      Is the game shit or not?

      • reply
        September 29, 2016 5:13 AM

        No, not shit. Surrounded by drama, but if you like exploration games, it's a lot of fun.

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        September 29, 2016 7:29 AM

        No, there are some really good things about it. There's just a lot missing as well and limited "game".

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        September 29, 2016 7:44 AM

        Probably one of the most interesting games I've ever played, but the mechanics are a bit dull for sure.

    • reply
      September 29, 2016 7:25 AM

      I am not sure I agree with this, not because NMS doesn't deserve some reprimands for their bad messaging, but because I worry the precedent that this sets for indie developers. This was never something that hurts majors since they always have lawyers and PR to keep stay in line enough to never quite promise anything or worry about it. For Hello Games, they might be lucky and get Sony to help out, but otherwise they are in a tough spot.

      If anyone thinks someone could sue UBI or EA for this and win for something similar they are crazy. The litigation would either never go forward, or it would simply settle quietly (settling means nothing changes). So unless it is class action territory there is probably no chance of it being a big deal.

      So yeah, if this goes forward, and Hello Games gets hurt badly by this (like they aren't being hurt badly enough already by their reputation), then it means indie devs are gonna have to basically never reveal anything about their game or risk the same.

    • reply
      September 29, 2016 7:31 AM

      Oh for fuck sake, really? This is an actual thing? Are people THIS fucking upset about it?

      • reply
        September 29, 2016 7:52 AM

        Did you read the article? :-\ Dude's not upset, just disappointed by misleading marketing and took steps to do something about it.

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          September 29, 2016 8:03 AM

          All steps except becoming an informed consumer, lol. Couldn't be bothered to watch a video or stream of the game to find out if maybe the company invested in selling a product to you might be overselling said product?

          Obviously the NMS devs made a lot of missteps in their communication, some of it is pretty bad (the Steam page trailer, for one). But this whole thing seems like a "strike while the iron is hot" situation rather than some kind of "consumer rights" advocacy. NMS hate is one of the most popular things on the internet right now it seems.

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            September 29, 2016 8:09 AM

            I mean the Steam page trailer is still there, so it's not like they made that misstep and corrected it.

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      September 29, 2016 7:47 AM

      People should just stop pre-ordering stuff and basically feeding this behavior. If people waited until a game was released, waited for some reviews, they wouldnt be so pissed off.

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        September 29, 2016 8:00 AM

        People still pissed who didn't even buy the game pretty sure many of the posters here didn't even buy it, yet are in every thread acting like they were mislead and crying about an injustice for a game they don't own.

    • reply
      September 29, 2016 7:58 AM

      Man I think NMS is getting scapegoated hard here. If they want to combat the practice then fine, but they are faaaar from the first company to do this.

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