The No Man’s Sky Debacle: When Hype Goes Too Far

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04 Sep 16

No Man’s Sky was one of 2016’s most anticipated new releases. Since the game was announced in 2013, it was constantly in the spotlight and gamers could not avoid being reminded that No Man’s Sky would the best game ever released. Now, almost a month after its launch, players are demanding refunds amidst negative reviews and broken promises. So, where did it all go wrong?

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The Hype Machine

It was difficult for anyone to really ignore the buzz building around No Man’s Sky. After its impressive showing at E3 2014, the game received plenty of exposure in the mainstream media. Hello Games gave a demo of No Man’s Sky on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert while The New Yorker Festival featured it in its first-ever [email protected] event.

This coverage displayed all of the amazing and wonderful capabilities of the game engine, showcasing ground-breaking graphics and limitless gameplay potential. With the whole world watching, the pressure was on for Hello Games.

As recent history demonstrates, this is almost always a recipe for disaster. Watch Dogs, Elder Scrolls Online and Assassin’s Creed Unity are just a few of the over-hyped games that turned out to be flops. No Man’s Sky suffered the same fate, as players were promised big things that the developer failed to deliver.

Expectations

Public expectation grew tremendously in the three years between the announcement of No Man’s Sky and its eventual release. Along with being touted as a triumph in gaming graphics, players were told that there would be limitless potential when it came to exploring the universe. With a procedurally generated universe consisting of over 18 quintillion planets, it would take five billion years to fully explore.

These are just a couple examples of the type of praise No Man’s Sky received before its release:

  • “No words to describe it. Poetry. And from a four-person indie studio too. This has rocketmanned straight to the very top of my Most Wanted list.” – Alec Meer, “Rock Paper Shotgun”
  • “Succeed or fail, No Man’s Sky is a clear bid to create one of those special games that defines a generation. Already, I can’t take my eyes off it.” – Christian Donlan, “Eurogamer”

With years and years of this type of praise and admiration, gamers formed a specific idea of just how innovative and impressive the game should be. Sadly, the majority of players were disappointed that the game they purchased did not live up the expectations they formed based on the marketing of No Man’s Sky.

Versus Reality

The release of No Man’s Sky was staggered across the middle of August, and players were so eager to give it a spin that many used VPNs to access the game before it was released locally (and that was only a matter of hours for some). Yet it wasn’t long before the online public was made well aware of just how far they had been led astray.

Players were disappointed that, despite the promise of a vast universe, there was relatively little variation from planet to planet. At every destination, players have the same set of tasks to complete: take in the sights, scavenge, potentially find an abandoned ship and discover outposts. There are no specific missions, so it’s not hard to see why players would get bored easily.

The consolation could have come in the form of endless exploration. Since the planets are randomly generated, it would seem as though players would discover outrageous new animals and plant life with every planet on which they land. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case, as players found themselves encountering similar species across the universe and quickly identifying patterns. Plenty of players stated that they saw everything within about 10 hours of play.

The graphics are an altogether different issue, which can be covered in just 30 seconds:

Keeping the Hype Under Control

For a game from a small, indie developer, No Man’s Sky could have been a great breakout title that brought a little something new to the market. However, the incessant buzzing of the hype machine inspired the public to expect it to change gaming forever.

This could have most certainly been avoided had No Man’s Sky not spent so much time in the public eye before its actual release. When a game is promoted and praised too much before its launch, it only makes it easier for players to be disappointed. Players should be able to discover the game for themselves and form their own opinions. Too much promotion forces them to adopt unrealistic expectations. When the game fail to live up to them, of course they are going to feel let down.

Developers and marketers can learn from the No Man’s Sky debacle. It is prime example of how overhyping a video game almost always leads to certain disaster, leaving a trail of shattered expectations behind.

Do you have any thoughts on this bleak moment in gaming history? Have you any experience with No Man’s Sky yourself? Please leave a comment below and tell us what you think.