Prior to the release of No Man’s Sky, it was almost impossible to visit a gaming news website without hearing of some grand, new feature that the game would contain. With promises such as 18 quintillion planets to explore and five billion years’ worth of gameplay, it was almost impossible to not be interested in purchasing the title as it was promising features that most gamers thought impossible.
Fast forward to today (post-release of No Man’s Sky) and the title holds Steam’s record for the highest drop in active players in a single year, and Hello Games, the developers of the title, is being investigated for advertising fraud.
How did this all happen?
There are two explanations for this phenomenon, both of which will be discussed. The first places the fault of this disaster on the marketing techniques of the developer, and the second places fault on the general nature of consumer reception of new media products (in other words, hype).
The Victim Of False Advertising
As previously stated, No Man’s Sky was a title that was supposedly meant to revolutionize the video game market. It was being advertised as a title that contained numerous never-before-seen features that got hordes of gamers excited to play the game. In the months leading up to release, it was virtually almost all that many gamers could talk about.
For an indie developer, the prospect of your next video game title being the most talked about topic on major video game news websites is a dream, as there aren’t very many indie titles that have the capabilities to do as such. However, to paraphrase Uncle Ben, with great hype, comes great responsibility.
It is the responsibility of the developer to ensure that the information provided to the news distributors is accurate, and to correct it if it has been reported incorrectly. Hello Games did not do this.
It seems as if in the process of marketing its title, Hello Games forgot to align the information that was being reported about the title with what it would actually entail. This, in turn, raised consumer expectations to a level that the title was never, ever going to be able to achieve.
Many developers have faced backlashes in the past for releasing titles that included features that were perhaps not given completely accurate descriptions in press releases. However, none have ever been to this scale.
There definitely must be something wrong with your advertising campaign, if a large group of consumers believe they received a game that is different than to what was promised.
The Victim Of Hype
There is no denying that some level of hype accompanies every single video game release. One does not even have to look far for examples. The campaign trailer for Battlefield 1 was released a couple of days ago, and already many people are saying that it’s going to be the greatest FPS campaign ever (I too partook in the hype process for this title by adding my own two cents).
Hype has led to many disappointed gamers in the past and it will continue to do so in the future. A title that has been a victim of hype has generally been advertised in an honest manner, but consumer excitement and chatter regarding the product has raised their overall expectations for the product as the release date draws closer. When the final product is finally unleashed, some are hugely disappointed in the product because community discussion raised expectations.
In the case of No Man’s Sky, the community did work in raising expectations for the title, but Hello Games had already raised the expectations by providing false information about what the game would entail.
Sometimes, when game developers face backlash for releasing a product that did not live up to consumer expectations, I feel bad for them (provided they were honest about their product in the first place). Developers don’t necessarily have full control over how the community will perceive a new title, so sometimes there is no way to control rising consumer expectation.
However, when a developer outright lies about what a game will involve, they deserve the strong consumer backlash currently being felt by Hello Games. No Man’s Sky creator Sean Murray has kept silent on this whole matter, which has only served to fan the flames as gamers continue to demand an apology — or more — from the developer.
Hopefully, this whole debacle will serve as an example to future developers of how not to behave in their attempts to boost sales numbers. But only time will tell.
Do you think No Man’s Sky had a misleading advertising campaign? Please share your opinion in the comments down below.