ASA dismisses No Man’s Sky complaint

Ben Parfitt
ASA dismisses No Man’s Sky complaint

Hello Games has no case to answer regarding the marketing of No Man's Sky.

That's according to the Advertising Standards Authority, which has dismissed a complaint raised regarding the controversial space title in September.

The developer told the organisation that due to No Man's Sky's procedural generation, which means every planet is unique, each user's experience would be very different” and it would be difficult to recreate the exact scenes from the ad”.

The studio also said that it believed 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” and added that all material features from the ad that had been challenged by complainants appeared in the NMS universe in abundance”.

Hello Games also supplied the ASA with gameplay footage from both itself and third parties that it believed proved the legitimacy of the marketing materials.

The ASA also noted that Hello Games said the quality of the graphics shown in the ad was inferior to the graphics the game was capable of exhibiting and was representative of the quality of the graphics of the NMS experienced by an average player”.

Also addressed was the complaint that faction and territory wars, which featured in the pre-release marketing, do not feature in the final release. Stated the ASA: Hello Games said that this was part of the story or narrative of the game and manifested itself through the player's journey and interactions with three factions during gameplay.”

The ASA dismissed the complaint, having accepted that procedural generation meant that players were not guaranteed to encounter conditions and environments depicted in screenshots, but that the chance existed that they would.

It also agreed that this was clearly communicated ahead of release.

Some complainants challenged whether water was depicted in the same manner as in the game,” the ASA said in its summary. We reviewed the Hello Games footage and noted that it showed bodies of water broadly consistent with those shown in the ad. Both these elements were observed during gameplay.

A number of complainants were concerned that large-scale space battles of the type shown in one of the videos was not part of gameplay. We acknowledged Hello Games' assertion that the larger battles were more unusual, and noted the footage they provided of a materially similar type of battle. In relation to these features, we considered that the ad did not depict gameplay that differed materially from the footage provided by Hello Games, and that it was therefore unlikely to mislead.”

Similar conclusions were reached regarding AI behaviour. It did acknowledge that it was unable to recreate a scene shown in which a ship flew under a rock formation, but as this was a brief shot within a wider sequence and we did not consider that, in the context of the ad as a whole, this was likely to mislead”.

On the same theme: Some complainants also challenged the depiction of animals in the ads. Hello Games provided footage in response, which we noted showed similar animal behaviour to that shown in the ad. Although animals in the trailer were shown moving large trees, which was not observed in the footage or during gameplay, we considered that this was a fleeting and incidental scene, unlikely in itself to influence materially a consumer's decision to purchase the game, and that it was not misleading.”

The ASA also believed that the marketing materials did not present the game in a graphically superior light. Indeed, with high-spec equipment the in-game graphics could exceed those seen in the screenshots and videos, it argued.

It concluded: 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. 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.”

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