UK agency investigating No Man’s Sky over ‘misleading’ advertising

U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority has launched an investigation into this summer’s hotly-anticipated No Man’s Sky after receiving “several complaints” of false advertising. The investigation is geared specifically toward the game’s store listing on Valve’s Steam platform.

“I did feel personally misled,” one unhappy player, identified only as AzzerUK, told Eurogamer. AzzerUK is among those who sent a complaint to the ASA. “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.”

Language like “start falling in line” should rightly concern us, smacking as it does of the same authoritarian rhetoric with which players have policed other games for causes personal and political — but the main thrust of AzzerUK’s grievances is familiar to anyone who has followed the No Man’s Sky hope frenzy and post-release backlash. Many users say they feel grievously misled by pre-release screenshots, videos, and interviews which suggest features not apparent in the shipped game.

“The marketing of the game was very different to the end game,” AzzerUK tells Eurogamer. “The end game is a shallow screenshot generator, and in some ways it reminded me of Spore.”

Incensed Reddit users would not be the first to make that comparison. Even before No Man’s Sky‘s release, thinkpieces abounded likening Hello Games’s debut space exploration title with Will Wright’s much-hyped creature evolution game, particularly forecasting a similar wave of disappointment should it not measure up to players’ lofty expectations.

Spore and No Man’s Sky should serve as cautionary tales, that much is not in question — but moreso for customers than developers. Games change throughout their development cycle and no game is going to be as infinite as a player’s imagination. Entertainment teasers regularly deploy footage or make predictions which don’t make it to the final movie/game/book/whatever, but that’s a far cry from intentionally misleading customers. Even PlayStation chief Shuhei Yoshida has gone on record saying that, if Hello Games director Sean Murray is guilty of anything, it’s talking to the press without a handler.

Nevertheless, this also isn’t the first time players have reached out to regulatory boards to get some official validation for their grievances. When players felt Mass Effect 3‘s ending unfairly funnelled three games worth of choices into the same functionally identical conclusion, they went to the ASA and U.S.-based Federal Trade Commission, saying publisher Electronic Arts had misled customers about the game. FTC’s response seems lost to time, but the ASA at least sided with EA and rejected the complaint. So there’s some precedent here, even if it won’t necessarily work out in aggrieved players’ favor.

We’ve reached out to Hello Games, Valve, and Sony for comment and will update this story with their response.

(h/t International Business Times, Eurogamer, Develop.)