The Advertising Standards Authority has released its ruling on the Steam page for Hello Games' divisive sci-fi title No Man's Sky, and reasons that the marketing materials there do not paint a false picture of the game to potential customers.
The ruling is partly based on Hello Games defence that No Man's Sky is a procedurally generated games, Eurogamer reports. This means no two players are likely to have the exact same experience, nor is any individual likely to see identical content on different playthroughs.
"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," the ASA said.
"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."
The investigation focused on the game's Steam page following 23 complaints about the images, footage and more displayed there. However, the ruling also applies to the PlayStation Store, which shows the same promotional assets. While the ASA contacted both Valve and Hello Games, the former deferred the organisation towards the No Man's Sky developer, which Eurogamer reports "put a lot of effort into defending itself".
The ASA was prompted to investigate whether the Steam page misled customers about the game's content back in September, when users began protesting about the final quality of the game. Using the screenshots and videos displayed on the No Man's Sky Steam page, consumers asserted that advanced animal behaviour, large-scale combat and ship-flying behaviour believed and other features depicted were not available in the launch version of the game.
There were also claims that the screenshots misrepresented the graphical quality of the game, and that references to the game's lack of loading screens and inclusion of factions fighting over in-game territory were misleading.
The ASA responded to each of these complaints and in detail, and Eurogamer has the full breakdown.
With regards to complaints about misleading gameplay footage, the organisation ruled that since No Man's Sky is procedurally generated, "it would be difficult to create the exact scenes from the ad". The ASA said Hello Games has stated all material features demonstrated in the ad appeared "in abundance" in the final game.
The ASA did note that the interface and aiming system shown in trailers and screenshots had undergone "cosmetic changes", but did not believe this would significantly impact a consumer's decision to buy the game.
On the issue of the large space battles promised, Hello Games admitted these "were more unusual" but provided the ASA with footage that showed similar types of battles from the finished product.
As for claims of misleading graphics, Advertising Standards reasoned that these would be determined by power of the consumer's PC, and that most Steam customers understand this.
"From the game and the footage provided by Hello Games (including material from third parties), we understood that the game was capable of producing graphics of much higher quality than that shown in the videos and of comparable quality with the screenshots, and considered that the images used therefore did not exaggerate the game's performance in this regard," the ASA ruled.
The ruling is unlikely to satisfy many of the complainants who first raised this issue. One of the original people to argue Hello Games was misleading customers - Reddit user AzzerUK - told Eurogamer he was disappointed by the ruling, and intends to take this further by writing a letter to Sir Hayden Philips, independent reviewer of ASA Adjudications.
He said: "Such disappointment can lead to apathy in future, as in - why bother making complaints in the future if you feel like even something as in my opinion blatantly misleading as No Man's Sky advertising is not considered misleading?"
Sony's Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida said he understood some complaints consumers had shortly before the investigation began, claiming Hello Games founder Sean Murray "sounded like he was promising more features in the game from day one."
The controversy and backlash that followed the launch of No Man's Sky led Hello Games to operate in silence for the best part of three months. Earlier this week, that silence was broken with the announcement of a major update and introduction of new features to the game, with the promise of more to come.