The discovery of a change to the UK packaging for No Man's Sky has fuelled the heated conversation about the game's online functions.
Pictures have appeared online of a sticker placed on the rear of the game's box. It pictures a PEGI 7 logo and violence warning. Removing it reveals beneath not only a PEGI 12 rating, but also the online play logo that appears on the box of titles that support online functionality.
PCGamesN has confirmed that this change was made to the European Limited Edition SKUs shipped to the UK and the Netherlands.
So what, you may ask? After all, the game does feature an online element, with named discoveries made by players being shared across the title's central universe. That's not ‘traditional' online play by any means, but it is an online feature.
Indeed, when MCV published a piece with the headline ‘No PlayStation Plus required for No Man's Sky online features' in June, Twitter wasn't shy in berating us for running news that was apparently ‘obvious' as we all knew the game wouldn't have a conventional multiplayer setup.
However, since launch No Man's Sky has been facing a seemingly endless barrage of criticism, some of which centres around its online features, which were at times presented as almost MMO-like during the game's many pre-release marketing interviews.
This chatter was intensified after two streamers happened to come across one another when playing, something that Hello had said was statistically unlikely owing to the size of the game's universe. However, even when said players made their way to the same spot, they were unable to see one another.
Again, you may ask so what? Well for many this constituted a breach of what they felt were the pre-release promises made about the game. So the discovery of a removed online icon on the game's box has struck a raw nerve.
Developer Hello, however, was largely ambiguous about the game's online features in the run up to release. Yes, allusions to an MMO-style universe were made, but it was also stressed that player encounters were highly unlikely.
And things change during development, not least for No Man's Sky. It started out as a small indie project, only to be picked up by Sony, pumped with extra development resource and given both triple-A marketing and a triple-A price. It's been a pretty unique and remarkable process for Hello, to be sure.
Still, a question remains – why the removal of the online play sticker? Well, packaging alternations are not uncommon. Indeed, that the original packaging carried a PEGI 12 logo suggests that they were printed before some elements of the release were finalised. The change could be simply procedural. Or maybe not. Until Hello or Sony clarifies we won't know for sure.