Gamers everywhere will know the tale of Sean Murray, Hello Games, and No Man’s Sky. In the years building up to the 2016 release of the space exploration adventure, Murray was a little… shall we say, overzealous in his promotion of the game.
This, coupled with fan expectations and media coverage that only fueled the hype, led to No Man’s Sky being a huge disappointment, which in turn led to some truly awful backlash for Hello Games, which ranged from personal insults to genuine death threats.
Over the years however, Hello Games has stuck with No Man’s Sky, and the studio should be commended for slowly delivering on a number of the features which were promised at launch, while greatly expanding the scope and appeal of the game via a number of substantial (and free) updates. Ask anyone who’s played it recently, and they’ll tell you No Man’s Sky is a genuinely great title these days.
With that in mind, Murray is clearly no stranger to a less than perfect launch, and as such he looks on at the current struggles of similarly critically-reviled games Fallout 76 and Anthem, and has some solid advice for the teams behind both titles; stay quiet, at least for a little while.
Murray explained during his keynote panel at this year’s Develop conference in Brighton (via GamesRadar) that Hello Games found success in throwing themselves into post-launch development, rather than continuing to make promises it couldn’t deliver on and incurring further ire from gamers.
We went about two years without talking to press at all. And we went about three months without saying anything to the community either. That was really hard. I sat down so many times and wrote the perfect blog post that was going to explain everything about the game’s development, and the road map going ahead. But I could see that it didn’t hold credibility with regards to where we were at.
Since No Man’s Sky, we’ve seen a number of games that have fallen short on pre-release promises thanks to rocky launches. The aforementioned Fallout 76 and Anthem are perhaps the most notable examples, but the likes of Sea of Thieves and The Division also got off to rough starts.
On that, Murray offered his take on the situation:
There have been a number of games that have since come out, had a polarising launch,and that explosive mix of loads of people playing it but also problems. And I can see EA, Microsoft, or Bethesda try to placate players by just talking to them, but for right or wrong, it just doesn’t really work. You see this all the time when a big publisher will talk to the community and try to solve the problem and then get embroiled, taking up more and more of its head space.
Obviously, complete radio silence could be quite a risky move, especially since it could be seen by a playerbase as the developers completely abandoning a game.
On the other hand, Sean Murray and Hello Games pulled off one heckuva comeback with No Man’s Sky, so perhaps Bethesda and EA should take note and put the focus on improving their games, with communication as a secondary concern.
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Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.