No Man's Sky Being Investigated For False Advertising In The UK

Image: Kotaku

The drama around No Man's Sky and its promotion continues today, with the game's advertising being investigated by the Advertising Standards Agency.

The ASA regulates all media advertising in the United Kingdom, as well as online marketing for websites. And given how adamant gamers were about refunding the game and making this displeasure known to the developers and everyone else, it was inevitable that someone would complain to the regulator as well.

In a post on Reddit a couple of days ago, a user posted that they had "received a response" from the agency surrounding No Man's Sky marketing. Earlier this morning, Eurogamer reported that the ASA has confirmed they are investigating the game's marketing, putting questions to Hello Games and Valve over the way it was advertised on the Steam store.

Both Hello Games and Valve have been asked to respond on a number of questions, around features that were shown or mentioned on the No Man's Sky store page that were not present in the game at launch. Those include:

  • 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)
  • Quality of graphics
  • References to: lack of loading screens, trade convoys between stars, factions vying over territory

The No Man's Sky trailer from E3 2014, which is the first video listed on the game's Steam page at the time of writing.

The interesting element is that any ruling the ASA makes will apply to the game's advertising elsewhere, including listings on the PlayStation Store, YouTube, and potentially the Xbox Store should the game be released there. Any ads or promotional material deemed misleading or in contravention of the regulator's standing practices can be taken down, which would also prevent their use in the future — so it might be worth preserving some of that old footage.

It comes after Sony head Shuhei Yoshida said that he understood the complaints against No Man's Sky and that Sean Murray "didn't have a PR person helping him". "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," the Sony Worldwide Studios president added.


Comments

    I'd like to apply this way of thinking to about a dozen games released over the last five years.

    Setting a dangerous precedent here.

    Sony's to blame here. What they seem to be doing is having a bet each way. They're bending over backwards for the indie or arthouse crowd and seemingly allowing creators to shine, but when it goes spectacularly wrong they distance themselves from the studio like this?

    Absolutely shameful.

    Back to my main point though, let's try and see what other games could be investigated for some of those bogus claims:

    User Interface Design - Star Fox Zero. Let's all sue Nintendo (and really, Miyamoto).

    Loading Times: Take your fucking pick.

    Quality of graphics: Witcher 3 apparently got a 'downgrade' and according to the Reddits and 4chans of the world this should be tried in the Hague.

    Yeah sure, let's take No Man's Sky out the back and shoot it. Let's see what sort of industry we end up with as a result of this. This'll produce more shady deals the likes of which we see Youtubers constantly involved in. You won't know until you've parted with your money. Just like always.

      Can't help but think of the original Watch Dogs as well.

      I wouldn't be surprised if as a result of this you end up having a situation where you can't have antiquated trailers or videos from a few years back on your store page -- it has to be more closely aligned with what the product represents at the time of release, or something like that.

        I think what will have to come out of all of this is, did a developer/publisher willingly deceive a consumer?

        You can argue that downgrading graphics isn't deception but compromise to the technology and the product still functions as advertised even without the better graphics.

          I would disagree on that though, the downgrading of graphics was absolutely a deception when it's advertised publicly as meeting a particular graphical level, but, at the end of the day they did release the final product and advertise it with the current graphical standard though so there's that. What I'm hoping comes out of this, is that companies stop releasing Bullshots and upgraded 'vertical slices' that don't show the true examples of what they're releasing. False advertising has infected the industry to a large degree with a lot of companies, hopefully they start reigning it back a bit.

          Last edited 29/09/16 11:41 am

            False advertising has been around since the invention of advertising, that will never change. Hello Games is in a catch 22 situation. They could have delayed the game longer and suffered more criticism and "death threats" or release the game as they did and suffer the current tide of exaggerated expectations of gamers.

              It may have been around, but that doesn't excuse it and it should be called out and stamped out at every opportunity otherwise it thrives and people get ripped off. Hello Games is *only* in this situation because of promising things they reneged on. They're blatantly false advertising on Steam, made promises they didn't follow through on and the 'expectations of gamers' only came about because of Murray's own promises that never came about.

              Or they could have released the game as they did, but told people beforehand that features they'd advertised were cut. "Sorry, we had to cut multiplayer because we couldn't get it to work in time" is perfectly reasonable. Telling people it was there then silently cutting it and not telling anyone is not.

                Only on the internet would a Smurf Monster & a godly zombie argue about the finer points of a game & claims of false advertising by its developer.

      The three you've listed on their own though wouldn't be enough for a false advertising claim. When bundled in with the rest of the list though and taking into account some of the advertised features just aren't in the game it's a different story.

      What they seem to be suggesting is that beta footage is considered advertising. Something that might have been out of date 2 years ago is now something to be hung for, because it wasnt in the final product?

      As you say, thats a dangerous precedent, and one that shuts down a lot of games, particularly in the independent area.

      Maybe in the wider area as well. I'm thinking of Star Citizen here, which has made a lot of comments on what they are trying to get into the game. You know that as soon as something is left out, some sector of the gaming community is going to call foul, and demand they go through this same process.

        The problem is their beta trailer is being shown on their steam page, thus advertising for the game.

          This^^^

          The problem isn't what's in the game, or what was shown in a trailer years ago. The problem is that they're advertising the game RIGHT NOW with utterly bogus footage which shows no loading times between areas, advanced flight mechanics, and a slew of other things which aren't in the game.

          There is no comparison to be made to star fox or watch dogs or any other bullshot e3 footage, because they weren't lying on the day to sell the game.

          This is clear-cut false advertising, and sets no apocalyptic precedent.

            Where was the beta trailer first shown?

            VGAs wasn't it? The 'event' on the gaming calendar that is purpose built by the industry to get us excited with nary but 'the vibe' of something we think would be cool.

            E3 has its faults, but it is also very important, it's practically the foundation.

          Yeah I get that. Not wanting to start a flamewar or anything, but having file footage like that is a standard practice in the industry. As you build interest, you release videos of beta footage, or whatever, and it tends to stay there. I dont know of many games that take down old footage as a game changes.

          My point is that, like leigh at the top, I think this is something you can apply on a far wider basis, so why is NMS suddenly being handpicked? Did it meet expectations? Certainly not, but is that because people wanted more than what was being offered, or a true case of false advertising.

          I say its somewhere in the middle and that bluntly, if your opinion of a game is based on 2 year old footage, you are part of the problem. I wanted multiplayer, even knowing it wasnt really an option. I imagined a game that could be altered to make it happen, turned out my imagination was asking for the impossible.

          And thats the gamemakers fault? Hardly.

          The worst crime I've seen here is that creatures arent 20m tall, and the water isnt flowing.

            I think it's more the accumulation of lies and false truths that have lead to no man sky receiving this attention. If the game came out without much of the other stuff, but had the beta trailer footage, I doubt much would happen.

            But with everything else on top of it, it has become the problem is is now.
            I believe NMS is a good cautionary tale for hype and pre-orders.

              Oh definitely. My opinion is that the consumer is part of that, thats all. We have our expectations, and HelloGames didnt hose them down as perhaps they should have. Certainly not in central areas like the Steam page.

              But plenty of other games are guilty of the same thing. Games that have cut footage in their release trailers, even their promo kits to the industry, and they get a free pass. NMS for some reason is being held to a different standard than any other game out there.

              Case in point - the multiplayer. The uproar on that (thankfully, it doesnt seem to be on the list above) is down to a single word answer in a rapid fire interview. Yet despite numerous times since then when its been made clear that multiplayer shouldnt be expected, people jump on that single word answer as some sort of gospel.

              And yet ignore the multiplayer aspects that ARE there, just to have a whinge.

              This isnt Blizzard behind this, its a small 15 person studio that doesnt have the luxury of a well oiled machine controlling every aspect. They deserve better.

                It boils down to a pretty simple question. Did the advertising that was shown at the time you made your purchase mis-represent what was in the game?

                If the developer has out dated beta footage on their store page that shows content which did not make the final cut then the game has been mis-represented. It has nothing to do with hype, developer statements or years old videos that people had watched elsewhere.

                It's only to do with the marketing material used when the purchase was made. Note that applies to pre-orders as well as purchase after release unless the pre-order has some kind of clause/statement that makes it clear things can still be cut.

                Last edited 29/09/16 11:33 am

                  And again, its something thats happened for decades, so why is it suddenly such a big problem now?

                  This is far from the first game thats left early footage up on their site, most do it with their news area, or media area. Footage that media run with to advertise the game despite more up to date options being there. Yet its now such a big deal that the ASA needs to rule on it.

                  @grunt It's likely due to the extent of false advertising that has gone on with NMS and not marking beta footage as beta and instead using it as the actual game trailer, the most prevalent form of marketing they are using.

                  It's not about early footage being available, it's about the early footage being actively used to market and advertise the game. Do you see the difference? This isn't in the news or media area of their web page, this is front and centre on their Steam page which is why the above article mentions questions being asked of Steam as well.

      The complaints would have subsided very quickly if No Man's Sky was a good game. But it wasn’t.

      I take issue with not only because it doesn't really deliver on many of the features that were promised during the extended promotion process, but more because NMS is an extremely dull with very basic core mechanics that are not fun or interesting. It’s $4 indy game, at best and should never have retailed for the same price as a triple A title. I can only assume that greed took over at some point after the original E3 showing and Murray decided to ride the gravy train in a very cynical way.

      It's not the same as the Witcher 3 which most people consider to be an excellent game, with very good graphics.

      Games do change during the development process and features are dropped and get cut from the final build. But Sean Murray continued to allude to features that he must have known would not be in the game, even as the game was nearing launch.

      Personally, I feel like this has been one of the biggest scams in gaming history and really hope they get some traction with this to prevent other shyster developers thinking they can make a truck load of money by deliberating spinning a wish list of features to build hype and increase pre-orders.

      I was given the game as a gift and played it for 4 or 5 hours in which time I had seen the games boring mechanics several times over. It has since been resold on ebay. Good riddance.

      Well said... its the whole "pile on!!!" affect. And of this escalates any more. Every gamer andchis virtual dog will be out for misguided blood on a game that in their eyes did not deliver.

      User Interface Design - Star Fox Zero. Let's all sue Nintendo (and really, Miyamoto).Eh?

      Yes, but NMS isn't just the odd oversight or downgrade. Every single aspect of the game was falsely advertised. I mean come on -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KxRp8jeliQ

    Is that so bad though?

    I agree that this could set a dangerous precedent, however there also needs to be some accountability for promises made while selling and promoting. In any other industry, say if apple were to promise features and not deliver, what do you think the backlash would be there?

    Cut content and features is a thing that happens to many if not most games during development, however, if features aren't going to make it into a game, this is must be communicated before or at launch, otherwise we find ourselves in this kind of situation.

    For the record I was very late onto the bandwagon so missed most of the hype train despite purchasing NMS day one. I can say that I did enjoy the game for what it was, however it was very hard to shake the feeling that the game shipped incomplete and missing a raft of features that could have turned it into a legitimate AAA game, not an alpha release with a wishlist of features and content that is on a road map.

    TLDR: There needs to be accountability for promotions/marketing just like the rest of the world.

    Entitled gamers at it again.

      Absolutely. Gamers have plenty of opportunity to check reviews and RESEARCH if the game actually does what they want it to. But instead they (myself included) get too excited and must by on launch without question.

      Maybe in the future trailers will need a message at the beginning saying "Actual game may differ."

        The games sales of pre-orders is based on the advertising described in the complaint.. post realease you can say "Do your research" but at the sane time the Question to be answered was Hello Games making malicious false promises outside reasonable expectations if a ganes development vs deliverable product... and the lack of correction in any marketing leading close to release or post release.

        So regardless of what is advertised for a product if the buyer doesn't "do their research" and find that they'll be ripped off then it's their fault?

        The old "buyer beware" crap doesn't cut it in Australia. If you misrepresent a product then the consumer is entitled to a refund. If you mislead thousands of consumers then the ACCC can easily get on board with fines. It's happened before with many companies that have nothing to do with games.

        Marketing material is required to represent the product being sold, pure plain and simple. If it doesn't then it isn't the consumer's fault if they believe it, its the company doing the marketing who is to blame.

        As I said below, you shouldn't be expected to poll the community to learn if a product is what it says it is. Customers should be able to read a label and know what they're buying, that's they whole reason we have trade laws.

        Clearly you haven't actually read the Steam Page for No Man's Sky as this isn't just about the trailer:
        In No Man's Sky, every star is the light of a distant sun, each orbited by planets filled with life, and you can go to any of them you choose.
        3 Lies right off the bat, every light is a dot on the skybox, they are not stars at all. The real stars are not orbited by planets as they aren't stars, simply lightsources in the skybox - so no you can't go to any of them.

        Fly smoothly from deep space to planetary surfaces, with no loading screens
        More lies, you can't even go into deep space, only into solar systems and travelling between them has a loading screen - a fancy looking one but it's still just a loading screen.

        Trade convoys travel between stars, factions vie for territory...
        Nope and nope.

        And there's some more that could be seen as 'misleading' more than blatant lies such as:
        Perhaps you will see the results of their actions as well as your own...
        There are no results, you simply name shit and upload it... But that could be excused as expressive language, the others, not so much...

        This isn't from a trailer or interview or E3 presentation, this is taken from the steam page right now. Anyone who is interested in the game on Steam is presented with this, being told "this is the game we're selling" which is clearly a lie. Expecting to hold them accountable for that doesn't make gamers entitled, it makes them reasonable consumers.

      This is about marketing, not quality/enjoyment of the product. Customers are entitled to recieve the product the pay for (as advertised) or recieve a refund, it's as simple as that.

      You shouldn't be expected to run a poll in the supermarket in order to make sure the apple you want to buy is actually an apple, not an orange. Trade laws exist for a reason, grow up.

        Ex-fucking-actly. The bullshit notion this is about 'entitled gamers' is ridiculous. It's simply about people who are misunderstanding how trade law actually works.

          A refund seems fair but this guy has gone social justice warrior because he feels the company should be punished.

          That punishment should be from learning your effing lesson and not buying from them again tbh.

      Right now, the first video on the Steam store page is a demonstration of a build that is not available to purchase. Most would agree that video is a better looking game than the one that actually shipped. If consumers are misled with an untrue representation of a product, they are entitled...........entitled to a refund. That's what this complaint is all about.

    the strange thing for me now, is that I like the game itself (sure it could be better) I found it enjoyable and relaxing but now between the devs silence and the bad side of the gamer community that lost its collect minds and not in a good or constructive way. I cant even begin to look at the game.

    I get how some can be upset, and I am in my own way about some things, but the sheer level of hysteria and continual nastiness surrounding this product is out of odds for their actual (apparent) crimes. Some gamers are so willing to put all the blame on the devs for (apparently) hoodwinking them but not taking a second to understand as a consumer it is ultimately up to them to make an informed purchase based on what something IS not what someone tells you it is. Everything in something like game design where things will can and always change.

    Ultimately we all SHOULD know preordering is wrong, we all SHOULD know always wait for reviews and streams... its like being a victim of break and entering, sure it shouldnt happen and sure we should be able to leave our doors open at night, but by locking our doors at night we can go some way towards migrating the risk. I am not defending devs (apparently) lying to people but some part of it is still up to a consumer.

    Last edited 29/09/16 9:59 am

      If you go to the steam page now and watch the trailer, then buy the game based on that very footage, you would see a different product when you booted it up.

      THAT is the problem here. It's not expectations, or entitlement, or mass hysteria. The picture on the box is not what's in the box.

      How is that anything but false advertising?

        games have been doing that for years, for decades. Having an E3 trailer used as a main video on Stream. Its not new, or unique. I am not fond that they do that for any game but it has nothing to do with No Man's Sky.

        hate to break it to you, while that is a problem, its not isolated to this game. That said you cant possibly think that alone is the problem?! There is a huge problem with expectations and entitlement in gaming, once again not isolated to No Man's Sky but the sheer level of mass hysteria feels like a watershed moment of gaming. I dont deny there are problems but the way the community reacted is at complete odds to some of apparent crimes. it certainly one of those moments as a gamers I was thoroughly embarrassed to be one.

        So many people with so many excuses, sure the devs were in the wrong but please, if you spend your money without being informed (beyond spending two mins watching a E3 video which everyone knows are always too glossy) a bit of blame has to be personally taken.

        Last edited 29/09/16 10:27 am

          So many people with so many excuses, sure the devs were in the wrong but please, if you spend your money without being informed (beyond spending two mins watching a E3 video which everyone knows are always too glossy) a bit of blame has to be personally taken.

          We, the "informed" gaming population, are still a tiny minority of the marketplace. Are you honestly expecting everyone who games to investigate beyond what appears to be finalised footage before making a purchase? It's not like they mixed the e3 trailer in, there is literally NO media from the final game on that steam page!

          You don't see anything wrong with that?

          NMS may not be the first offender, but we have to start somewhere with holding people accountable for this practice. We need to do this for those less informed gamers, because crap like this can only hinder the growth of the community at large.

          Last edited 29/09/16 10:47 am

            and vulgar, excessive and frankly unpleasant gamers who think digital hysteria helps grow the community? I get why some people are upset but the level of hate surrounding this game is so excessively stupid, any real and positive message that should come out of this just gets drowns in the dirge of mehness.

            I already said I had a problem with the way Steam keeps E3 videos on there. But of all the things which can be seen as false advertising for this product, its right down the list, especially given as this a standard for games and has been for a long time.

      So essentially your argument is that of a toddler:

      "BUT HE DOES IT TOOOO!!!!!"

      So what if other companies do it? big whoop. Gotta start somewhere. If we had people like you in charge nothing would ever get done.

        no just merely pointing out that one aspect that person seems to think is a slam dunk of guilt, for this game is perhaps the least of their problems and the least questionable. there is litytle in that video that is misleading. the use of E3 videos in advertising is widespread as is the amount of silly gamers who still go "lalalalala" put their hands over their eyes as they hit BUY. Using the idea if the game goes bad they can just blame the fact that the E3 video corrupted them, not the fact that they were just feeble minded, with no self control.

        its annoying but they are still widely used but to complain about it is like going to McDonalds and complaining the picture doesnt look like the burger. if that situation in advertising hasnt change for decade upon decade but most of the grown public just laugh and know its one of the quirks of life. of all the sorts of false advertising in the world it really is the most easy to recognise.

        The law makings and consumer affairs just dont have the resources to micro-manage such blatant falsehoods. Sadly. Consumers have to be smart themselves, they cant expect underfunded departments to save their ass at every turn. that is how some of us see the use of E3 videos they are OBVIOUS and ALWAYS going be to be glossy. they are the devil-you-know.

          The complaint is not about that. Its about the fact the they still have advertisments up on steam showing features not present in the game. Thats false advertising and i hope they get done for it.

          Stop making excuses for a shitty dev.

            if you stop making excuses for shitty gamers. Believe it or not life is a little more complicated than you give it credit. I have never said the devs were angels but gamers themselves have created this little pathetic storm themselves as well. merely pointing out the complexity of the reality is not making excuses, its called being an adult. Understanding there is no binary good or bad,

            Sure some of the things on their list have a point and then you see some like "User interface design" and I just laugh my head off, all UI's for all games change during the development cycle. if you think a change in UI design is ground breaking reasons for buying a game and the basis for a law suit/review all I can do is laugh. That list can be made against so many games, maybe you think Division should should be sued because their cool map over the ground feature was cut, or maybe every MMO ever should be taken before the board and/or sued because they do a huge patch/dlc that changes the world and the game people paid money for.

            The devs took things too far, I never said they didnt but if you think they alone deserve all they get without holding up a mirror to some gamers hyperbolic reaction, then I have reason to start laughing again.

            Last edited 30/09/16 5:20 am

              Your head is literally so far up your own arse im surprised you typed that comment.

    Was pretty obvious this game was completely empty and going to suck. I'm surprised anyone fell for it.

      Completely empty and going to suck? Is this the same game I've been playing for the last month and a half?

      I'll grant you, elements gets repetitive, but to say the game is completely empty is disingenuous.

      It's still a great game to play casually. One planet per game session. I still play it 2 or 3 times a week.

    NMS really should have been released and marketed as an "early access" product. It could have been released in it's current form and added to over the coming years. I also wouldn't have had so much of a leg to stand on to be a full-priced release, but *shrug*. I just think if they had called it early access rather than being "finished" when they may be planning to add in trade convoys etc, then perhaps they could have mitigated some of the disaster that actually resulted.

    Jesus Christ, its been months, let go of this already and move on with your lives...

    Does this also apply if a scene in a movie trailer doesn't appear in the theatrical release of the film?

      It's more like the trailer is ghostbusters, and you end up watching ghostbusters 2. Like a shitty knock off that isnt as polished and everything is different but looks vaguely similar. The plot is shitty and doesnt make sense too, so it's actually a pretty good analogy. What is in the trailer wasnt even generated by the procedural engine, it was hand crafted models.

      Last edited 30/09/16 7:10 pm

    This is going to set an impossibly high standard to live up to. I wish, just once that you people would actually make use of empathy and critical thinking for something other than supporting assumption and ignorance. No surprise to scroll down and see the bulk of comments stating nonsense without reasoning. "______ absolutely was a lie" PERIOD. "______ was definitely false advertising" PERIOD. "_____ was absolutely intentional." PERIOD.

    Just wondering if anyone actually realises your emotions and assumptions aren't transferrable facts? How do you people just... say stuff? Seems insane and arbitrary.

    Last edited 29/09/16 5:55 pm

      Only the intent complaint you listed is subjective. "X was a lie" and "X was false advertising" are quantitative statements, they can be proven by evidence. The rationale behind those complaints has been laid out in detail several times on previous articles, there's no reason to explain it every time.

      I know I've seen enough evidence to judge both of those statements as true. Just because you don't see the rationale doesn't mean it isn't there. It might be nice if you asked people before you made emotive assumptions that everyone else is making emotive assumptions.

    This isn't a complicated topic. All promotion of a product by the seller or manufacturer must not mislead the buyer into believing the product they're buying is different to the product being sold. There's no 'dangerous precedent' being set by expecting companies to be honest, and it's easy to avoid legal problems while still being able to comfortably show off in-development footage, as long as you:

    1. Inform your customers if a feature changes. "Sorry, we had to cut multiplayer due to time constraints", "Unfortunately the simulation detail we wanted isn't possible on current console hardware so we had to simplify it". Communication is essential.

    2. (optionally) Annotate in-development material as such. This isn't necessary to comply with the law, but being clear is always a good thing.

    3. Stop using inaccurate material in advertising as soon as it becomes inaccurate. You can't do anything about material hosted by other people, but you are absolutely responsible for material you do have control over.

    These are the things the law is concerned with, and they're very easy to comply with.

    For those wondering why the big deal, someone compiled an entire website (yep there's that much) of stuff Sean Murray promised or claimed, that was just completely missing from the release.

    Have a look -> http://onemanslie.info/

    I was all set to buy this game. Then I saw a video of the cartoony graphics and ghastly fake looking colour schemes and didn't even consider it again.

    difference between this and watchdogs is that the watchdogs graphics were shown in a preview/demo build and not advertised as the final release product. no mans sky has had store pages still adverstising things that were mentioned and now aren't around anymore

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