And so the No Man's Sky saga continues. Beyond the hype, the promises, and the prolonged silence from developer Hello Games and head honcho Sean Murray, it appears the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)—an independent regulator whose role is to “regulate the content of advertisements, sales promotions and direct marketing in the UK [by investigating] complaints made about ads, sales promotions or direct marketing”—is now investigating the game’s seemingly misleading promotional material.
Frustrated with the disparity between the game’s trailers, screenshots and “general information” used to advertise No Man’s Sky on its Steam page and what actually features in-game, Reddit user AzzerUK issued a formal complaint to the ASA. Ultimately, he or she feels the game’s advertising is “misleading and misrepresenting” of the features found in the actual game.
“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,” says AzzerUK. “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).”
The points AzzerUK details can be found in full here, however the list takes issue with: UI design, large-scale combat, flowing water, size of creatures, behaviour of ships and sentinels, and aiming systems, among other perceived discrepancies.
Although the ASA is a non-statutory body (which means it can’t interpret or enforce legislation), it does have the power to have advertisements which breach its code of advertising practice removed—a process which of course prevents them from being used again.
This process has now been put in motion, and, should the ASA deem any of the promotional material to fall foul of said codes of conduct, Valve and Hello Games will be required to respond. Sanctions could follow if offending material is not removed.
A section of the ASA’s reply to AzzerUK reads as follows:
"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 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."
Speaking to Eurogamer, AzzerUK also notes feeling “personally misled” and while not necessarily harbouring ill-will towards Hello Games and/or Steam, felt obliged to contact the ASA “after seeing just how vastly different the trailers for No Man's Sky were from the actual released game”.
The investigation is ongoing, however we’ll update as and when we know more. This latest twist in the No Man’s Sky tale comes off the back of Sony president Shuhei Yoshida declaring Sean Murray "sounded like he was promising more features" than he could deliver, at this month’s Tokyo Game Show.