With No Man's Sky generating the kind of anticipation normally reserved for AAA titles, Hello Games CEO Sean Murray believes that its success could alter the relationship between indie developers and big publishers.
Despite having only released lower priced digital games in the past - Joe Danger in 2010, and Joe Danger 2: The Movie in 2012 - Hello Games' No Man's Sky will ship in physical boxes and retail at the standard AAA price point of $60. The scope and ambition of the game is likely to justify that cost, of course, and if it proves to be as successful as consumer interest would suggest, Sean Murray believes it could have a noticeable impact on the way that indies and big publishers work together from now on.
"If [No Man's Sky] is a success, I think that probably will have a real impact in terms of how a lot of people in larger publishers view indie games"
Speaking during a Reddit AMA last night, Murray praised Sony for its hands-off approach No Man's Sky's development. "Sony has been super cool to work with, but mainly just because they haven't been involved in development, you know?" Murray said. "We're still sort of the underdog with Sony, and in the general AAA (for obvious reasons).
"If [No Man's Sky] is a success, I think that probably will have a real impact in terms of how a lot of people in larger publishers view indie games. People generally think of [No Man's Sky] as a Sony title, but we're still just a self funded indie studio - it's kind of a crazy situation."
That much is certainly true. In a series of tweets earlier this week, Shahid Ahmad, who was instrumental in building the partnership between Sony and Hello Games, outlined just how rare and unlikely No Man's Sky's journey has been. According to Ahmad, who stated that a lot of the story remains untold, "at the time, for [Hello Games] to trust me, and PlayStation, was the biggest risk any developer has ever taken."
There were many dark nights when the only thing that kept the deal alive was the energy, drive and total belief held by me and Ben.— Shahid Kamal Ahmad (@shahidkamal) August 7, 2016
That No Man's Sky was ultimately allowed to fulfill the potential of its concept, then, is a credit to those involved, and almost certainly the reason why the game has been able to create so much excitement. From Murray's perspective, though, that excitement has been ambiguous.
When asked during the AMA about whether he or the Hello Games team looked at No Man's Sky's subreddit, he said, "there have been times, my lowest on the project, where I've looked at the subreddit and it's cheered me up and kept me going. But there have been times I've looked on there and despaired. And just thought, 'how can we ever live up to the expectations of people who having been waiting for this game for 3 years?'"
"Obviously the hype is terrifying. I mean, I have had this hanging over me for three years since we announced"
The game hasn't even been available for long enough for the first reviews to be published, but it's clear that Murray's conflicted feelings about the hype are inextricably tied to No Man's Sky's potential to "have a real impact" on the industry. The fact that Hello Games has managed to accomplish so much and gain so much visibility is remarkable, but it's also a heavy load deal for a small company to carry.
"Obviously the hype is terrifying. I mean, I have had this hanging over me for three years since we announced," Murray continued. "It's Catch 22. If we hadn't announced when we did, we probably would have quit the project without the community supporting us... but god... should I have passed up Colbert? Or E3? I dunno.
"Every time we showed the game we always assumed people would suddenly not like it anymore, but instead the hype would just get crazier. In an alternate timeline, imagine if we could just be showing it for the first time tonight and launching tomorrow? Imagine how fun that would have been."