Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky has come under fire over the past year amidst complaints about the title’s gameplay. An investigation from the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority (or ASA), however, has concluded that No Man’s Sky did not breach the United Kingdom’s CAP Code standards.
According to the ASA, 23 complainants “believed that some of the game content was not as depicted or described” and “challenged whether the [game’s] ad was misleading.” Complaints were based on the September 2016 version of the Steam webpage for No Man’s Sky, including gameplay videos and screenshots showing off in-game content. ASA worked with Hello Games in their report “ASA Ruling on Valve Corporation and Hello Games Ltd,” and the final report shows that the authority took both players’ complaints and the development process itself quite seriously.
“While each player experienced different parts of the NMS universe, there was a low probability that anyone playing the game as intended would fail to encounter all [the ad’s] features in some form within an average play-through,” the ASA report concluded. “[Hello Games] said the game itself was documentary evidence in support of the ad and, since NMS was specifically programmed to enable players to experience everything described in the ad, they were confident that any average player could do so.”
The ASA was, overall, quite supportive of Hello Games’ marketing approaching within the report. After investigating the entire ad and examining it in relation to the game, they concluded that No Man’s Sky‘s advertisement did not breach the CAP Code. “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,” the report ended. “We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.11 (Exaggeration), but did not find it in breach.”
The ASA’s ruling has long-term ramifications for the gaming industry. For one, it shows major organizations like the ASA itself are taking consumer complaints seriously. But the authority’s ruling also suggests that publishers are given a relatively wide spectrum to represent their title’s gameplay, so long as they capture the overall feel and play of the game. That said, the line between “representative” and “not representative” is blurry at best, so expect to see more complaints akin to No Man’s Sky’s down the road.