No Man's Sky was met with much criticism when it released, as many of the features that had been advertised throughout the game's lengthy marketing period were absent at launch. PlayStation boss Shuhei Yoshida blamed the controversy on poor PR strategy from creator Sean Murray and developer Hello Games, but many players and critics feel that it was far more than that, crossing the line into false advertising.
After receiving multiple complaints, the Advertising Standards Authority has officially launched an investigation into the game's marketing. The ASA is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media, and their duties include "acting on complaints and proactively checking the media to take action against misleading, harmful or offensive advertisements." If they find that an advertisement breaches their code of conduct, they can have it withdrawn from the public eye and prevent it from airing again. Failure to comply with ASA rulings can lead to penalties, including the removal of paid-for search ads online.
Speaking with Eurogamer, the ASA confirmed that they have begun their investigation into Hello Games and No Man's Sky. This process includes questioning both Hello Games and Valve regarding the game's various advertisements. Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, they can't reveal any additional information at this time, but apparent details of the investigation have surfaced on Reddit.
Reddit user AzzerUK was one of the people who filed an official complaint to the ASA, and they claim that they have since been contacted by the ASA with a complied list of points that Hello Games and Valve are being asked to address. Here's what that looks like, according to AzzerUK:
Today, I received a response from the ASA (Advertising Standards Agency in the UK), with regards to the trailers, screenshots, and general information on the Steam store page of No Man's Sky, with regards to them being misleading and mis-representing the actual game.
I can't speak about other countries, but in the UK that are regulations about providing advertising material that could mislead a consumer in some way - eg displaying things that do not, in fact, exist. 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.
In the ASA response, they say that both Hello Games and Valve have a joint responsibility, and so both organisations have now been contacted by the ASA and have been told to respond to the following issues which the ASA picked out as the primary issues (compiled from a number of complainants that contacted the ASA).
- User interface design
- Ship flying behaviour (in formation; with a ‘wingman’; flying close to the ground)
- Behaviour of animals (in herds; destroying scenery; in water; reacting to surroundings)
- Large-scale space combat
- Structures and buildings as pictured
- Flowing water
- Speed of galaxy warp/loading time
- Aiming systems
- Size of creatures (9)
- Behaviour of ships and sentinels (4, 5 and 8)
- Structures and buildings as pictured (3)
Store Page in general:
- Quality of graphics
- References to: lack of loading screens, trade convoys between stars, factions vying over territory
We'll keep an eye on this story as it evolves and let you know if any action is taken against Hello Games or Valve going forward.