No Man's Sky Misleading Ads Investigation Rules in Favour of Hello Games
No Man's Lie.
The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that Hello Games did not mislead consumers through the No Man's Sky Steam page and did not misrepresent the game and its features. In a statement published on the ASA website the regulatory body concluded "the ad did not breach" advertising codes.
"We understood that the screenshots and videos in the ad had been created using game footage, and acknowledged that in doing this the advertisers would aim to show the product in the best light," reads the statement.
"Taking into account the above points, we considered that the overall impression of the ad was consistent with gameplay and the footage provided, both in terms of that captured by Hello Games and by third parties, and that it did not exaggerate the expected player experience of the game. We therefore concluded that the ad did not breach the Code."
According to the ASA, 23 complainants said they believed No Man's Sky "was not as depicted or described" through marketing material such as trailers and screenshots on the Steam page. In its defense, as recounted by the ASA, Hello Games noted that No Man's Sky's content is procedurally generated instead of created by hand.
"This meant that the game content was generated by way of a computer process as that content was encountered by the player. This computer process embodied algorithms that determined, for example, the probability of a player encountering a creature with a particular physiology, exhibiting a particular behaviour or existing in a particular habitat."
The algorithm-powered generation of content meant that "each user’s experience would be very different" and "it would be difficult to recreate the exact scenes from the ad." Nevertheless, the studio maintained that it was "fairly straightforward to locate content of the type shown in the ad and to demonstrate that such content was commonly experienced by all users who played NMS for an average period of time."
The report continued, saying Hello Games asserted "there was a low probability that anyone playing the game as intended would fail to encounter all these features in some form within an average play-through."
In its own assessment, the ASA concluded that, since the marketing emphasised game content was procedurally generated, it was clear that the consumers would be able to understand that images and videos are representative of experiences they could have, though not necessarily in an identical fashion.
On the claims that user interface and aiming was not as advertised, Hello Games said "the appearance of these functions (but not the way they operated) had been amended since the videos were created," but said they didn't think "the appearance of these game elements was material." The ASA agreed, saying "these elements would [not] affect a consumer’s decision to purchase the game."
[Hello Games] did not exaggerate the expected player experience of the game ... We therefore concluded that the ad did not breach the Code."
Addressing the supposed visual discrepancies between the videos and full game, Hello Games argued trailers used gameplay captured using an average spec PC and said the quality of the graphics in those videos was actually inferior to what the game is capable of. The studio also noted that post-release updates have improved the visuals further.
The ASA supported this line of reasoning, saying "the graphical output of the game would be affected by the specifications of each player's computer, and considered that consumers would generally be aware of this limitation." It found two instances of higher visual fidelity in screenshots than in game, but said it "did not consider that the difference was so significant as to mislead in this context."
Other issues investigated by the ASA include the speed of warping around the galaxy shown in the video, which Hello Games said was normal and indicative of the experience in-game. It also clarified that footage was not edited to present warping to be quicker than it is. The ASA supported Hello Games in its conclusion, saying "warping would depend on the complexity of the destination system and the characteristics of a player's computer."
On the subject of flying from deep space to planetary surfaces with no loading screens, Hello Games said players could still interact with the game as "environments and characteristics were generated in real time." The ASA interpreted this to mean a "lack of interruptive or non-immersive interstitial screens" during travel, which was consistent with the in-game experience.
Another point of contention was the suggestion that players will be able participate in territorial disputes between faction. But Hello Games said this element was part of the narrative of the game and "manifested itself through the player's journey and interactions with three factions during gameplay." Again, the ASA sided with Hello Games, saying it "we did not consider that this description differed materially from the relevant gameplay features."
Concluding, the ASA noted "no further action required," regarding the dispute. You can read its full report here.
On November 27 Hello Games launched a major new update for No Man's Sky called the "Foundation Update." It introduces the first parts of the game's base-building and also serves as a "foundation for things to come." According to the developer, the Foundation Update is the first of "many" free patches for No Man's Sky.
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