The UK's Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that Hello Games did not mislead consumers with the use of certain screenshots and trailers on the game's Steam listing. The ASA conducted an investigation after it received 23 complaints from aggrieved players.
Screenshots and trailers that currently exist on the Steam page may remain following the ASA's ruling, which also extends to the game's listing on the PlayStation Store. Had the authority ruled against the game and how it has been advertised, it would have set a precedent against which future video game advertising campaigns would be judged.
Eurogamer reports that Guildford-based Hello Games lodged a passionate defence after the ASA contacted both it and Valve, the company behind Steam. Given Steam listings are controlled by developers however, Valve did not need to lodge a defence.
No Man's Sky launched in August following years of unprecedented hype. The game casts players as explorers in a procedurally generated universe of billions upon billions of unique planets. The game came under fire for not living up to the lofty expectations of many fans, and was accused of misleading consumers through the promise of absent features and the game's advertising.
Hello Games' defence centred on the game's central concept of procedural generation, that ensures that the planetary locations, plant life and wildlife that appear in any one player's game will mostly differ from those seen in the games of others.
The developer also said (as mentioned in the ASA's ruling) that because of this, it was "difficult to recreate the exact scenes from the ad". However, the developer did say 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 No Man's Sky for an average period of time".
The ASA's ruling states: "The summary description of the game made clear that it was procedurally generated, that the game universe was essentially infinite, and that the core premise was exploration. As such, we considered consumers would understand the images and videos to be representative of the type of content they would encounter during gameplay, but would not generally expect to see those specific creatures, landscapes, battles and structures."
They conceded that changes had been made to the game's HUD and aiming systems but deemed that these changes would not affect a potential buyer's decision to purchase the game, "as they were superficial and incidental components in relation to the core gameplay mechanics and features".
Hello Games also provided evidence of large space battles, structures and animal behaviours similar to those seen in the trailers to satisfy the ASA.
On the point of an alleged graphical downgrade, the ASA ruled that this wasn't in breach of advertising rules due to the graphical prowess of PC games being determined by individual user's PCs – something the ASA says most users should be aware of.