No Man’s Sky was an excellent game taken on its own terms, but unfortunately, a lot of gamers seem unwilling to do that. And amid unprecedented refunds and getting burned by their own publisher, Hello Games now has another problem: An investigation into whether their ads were misleading.
Enough gamers have complained to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority that it launched an investigation. Essentially, the complaints boil down to the game not being exactly like some of the trailers, like the structure of some buildings, the presence of flowing water, and the size and behavior of animals. If this feels a little familiar, that’s because advertising authorities and consumer protection bureaus are the favorite place for gamers to lodge complaints. Sometimes they even win a “moral” “victory,” like when the Better Business Bureau agreed that Mass Effect 3 was “falsely advertised.”
Here’s the question though: What’s the line between undeniable false advertising and just what we’ve accepted as the cost of being marketed to as a gamer? If a marketing department makes a trailer in the game itself, but puts the QA department on yanking any bugs that get in the way of it, is that false advertising? What about screenshots done on a gaming PC that costs more than a nice used car? What about features promised two years before the game arrives that are unceremoniously cut? If gamers, as a group, are going to drag the government into this whenever we find something objectionable, it behooves us to perhaps tell the people making games what our standards are, first.