No Man’s Sky from Hello Games was one of the most hyped video games of the past few years, and it was easy to see why. It allowed players to fully explore a procedurally generated universe, the scale of which had never been seen before in a video game. That universe boasts an unfathomable number of planets; so many that if you spent just one second at each one, it would take you 5 billion years to visit all of them.
So, it was no surprise that when No Man’s Sky finally arrived on the Steam gaming platform on August 12, it launched to a massive audience. At one point on launch night, No Man’s Sky peaked with 212,613 concurrent players, the fifth highest peak ever by a game on Steam, just behind well-established franchises like Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V, and Bethesda’s Fallout 4.
Unfortunately, players quickly realized that the game was missing many key features shown in trailers or discussed by the game’s creator, Sean Murray. Multiplayer was non-existent. Large-scale space battles had been removed, along with numerous other “big” locales and settings. The physics behind the game had been dumbed down; planets were stationary and tied to stars the player could never reach. Interactions between the game’s various creatures and the environment suffered the same fate, as did the crafting system.
Hello Games had essentially released a shell of what was promised, a game that none of the fanbase was expecting, and the backlash was in full swing by the end of the weekend. Negative reviews started pouring in and players turned to Steam for full refunds in such force that Steam had to issue a release re-stating the limitations of their return policy.
Cause and Effect
Within a week, No Man’s Sky’s concurrent player base dropped to less than 43,000. Nearly four weeks after launch on a Wednesday night, only 4,000 players are currently playing. While all games, even well-received ones, experience a significant drop in users, No Man’s Sky is setting the bar extremely high in terms of fiery crashes.
However, the lack of previously advertised features might not be the biggest reason for the continued decline. Studios often have to cut content late in the process as deadlines approach, and the relatively tiny Hello Games likely had to make numerous such cuts. That, at least, is understandable to more level-headed members of the fanbase. Not ideal, but understandable.
The importance of Communication
The real problem is that the communication between the company and its community has been sorely lacking at best, and non-existent at worst. There were no hints beforehand that major gameplay elements had been removed, and little acknowledgement of the issues in the days after launch. Sean Murray, a frequent interviewee prior to launch, hasn’t done an interview since. His Twitter has gone dark for three weeks. The only word out of Hello Games has been the occasional patch notes addressing various bugs.
It’s a deafening silence that No Man’s Sky players are taking to heart. While many quit after the disastrous launch, more are leaving in droves as the lines of communication fade. Players are frustrated that there has been no apology, no acknowledgement of player concerns, or no explanation as to how it all went so wrong.
While the poor launch drove players away from No Man’s Sky, the lack of communication will likely keep those same players from coming back, no matter how many improvements they make to a game that still does have the potential to be great. As a result, Hello Games has provided an excellent blueprint on how not to communicate (quite literally) after a crisis.
Learn from these missteps. When promoting your product or service, it’s imperative to communicate your value to consumers. Clarify what it is you can offer and make sure to follow through on these assertions. A critical step in this process is establishing brand recognition. An assortment of kitted merchandise imprinted with your logo is a great way to provide customers with a tangible reminder of which company to turn to when they need the product or service you provide.