No Man’s Sky was reviled when it launched three years ago. For all of the hype that the once PlayStation console exclusive garnered — it made waves by being featured on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert — it spectacularly failed to meet expectations at a level that’s nearly unheard of; It was review bombed, became the source of endless ridicule, and was a cautionary tale of how player expectations and broken promises can crater a game’s reputation. It was so bad that the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated claims of misleading ads and false advertising, though it found no wrongdoing on Hello Games’ part.
And yet, after three years, I can’t go online without hearing praise or good things said about No Man’s Sky in 2019. So what happened? Developer Hello Games didn’t give up. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult a decision it would have been to cut its losses and move onto the next project after a year or so, but other developers do just that frequently. It’s part of the industry. Hello Games persevered, when arguably you couldn’t blame them for wanting to move past it. No Man’s Sky today is almost unrecognizable from what it once was thanks to a few major updates that drastically improved and overhauled the experience.
Steam user reviews when No Man’s Sky released were largely negative. Though there’s still some negativity today — because it’s the internet and we can’t have nice things — reviews skew towards positive. It’s come a long way during its time on the market. Hello Games founder Sean Murray is reticent to discuss in exact detail the type of harassment the team received shortly after launch, but in an interview with The Guardian he said it was “as bad as things can get, basically. There’s a smorgasbord of things that the angry mob can do. It is a crowdsourced thing of how bad you can make someone’s life.”
I remember getting a death threat about the fact that there were butterflies in our original trailer, and you could see them as you walked past them, but there weren’t any butterflies in the launch game. I remember thinking to myself: ‘Maybe when you’re sending a death threat about butterflies in a game, you might be the bad guy.’
The last thing you’d think is that the community would turn around and crowdfund a billboard thanking Hello Games for its efforts, but that’s exactly what it did. Granted, the people funding the billboard likely weren’t the ones sending death threats in the first place, but it’s good to see the positivity outweigh the toxicity in any community.
This all comes after two major updates: No Man’s Sky NEXT, which saw the game come to Xbox One, and No Man’s Sky Beyond, which added enhanced multiplayer functionality and VR support. The patch notes for each update are almost comically long, but for good reason. They brought so much to the table in terms of content, features, and quality of life changes. Hello Games’ tenacity and commitment to making a better game won players’ trust back.
Murray won’t reveal just how well No Man’s Sky has sold since its rocky launch, but he told Kotaku that “last year  we sold the kind of numbers a AAA game would be happy with at launch.” At GDC 2019, he even said that No Man’s Sky is now “one of the biggest selling new IPs of all time.”
I’m incredibly happy for No Man’s Sky and Hello Games. That type of dedication deserves to be rewarded, and it has been. My fellow Android Central writer James Bricknell even calls No Man’s Sky “the new best reason to own a PlayStation VR.”
Take to the stars
No Man’s Sky is an ambitious space exploration sim from Hello Games. With the most recent updates, you can catalogue uncharted life on foreign worlds, build a home base with your friends and more. The sky isn’t the limit anymore.
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