Steve Hamilton, Digital Media Director
No industry is exempt from the possibility of a bad PR move in the digital age. Consumers are using the internet now more than ever for their interactions and purchases. In an era where every meal , movie, teacher, and video games is reviewed, you need to be able to stand by your product at a moment’s notice. If handled incorrectly, a single rotten review has the ability to take down an entire organization.
In August of 2016, Hello Games released the hugely anticipated video game, “No Man’s Sky”. In the months before its release, the game was hyped by its creators to be the pinnacle of space exploration games. They made sweeping promises about the game’s scope and scale, centering around a never ending stream of features that would make this the most ambitious video game project of its kind. However, when the game was released to the public, an overwhelming number of promised features were not in the game, sparking public outrage. Customers felt deceived, and took to the internet in droves to voice their opinions. A user on Reddit ‘/u/MeetWayneKerr’ wrote a large post containing sources for all promised features that did not make the final product. Additionally, Hello Games is under investigation for false advertising.
Amidst all of this turmoil, Hello Games, which before the game’s release was exceedingly active on social media, has been silent. The disgruntled consumers have been giving both No Man’s Sky and Hello Games a black eye in the industry. Finally, on October 26th, Hello Games broke their silence with a single tweet.
The company initially claimed that this tweet was the result of a hack, but later admitted it was posted by a disgruntled employee. Regardless of the content of the tweet, any Hello Games communication was bound to be heavily scrutinized due to the severe lack of communication. Due to the controversial nature of the game and its reception as well, this tweet was the worst possible outcome of this scenario.
In a situation such as this, silence is damaging. Letting your consumers (especially angry ones) tell the story of your brand and its products is not the way to go. Here’s what Hello Games could and should have done to control this situation.
- Vindicate your customers on their feelings. Hello Games overpromised and underdelivered. They need to come clean about that to their rapidly shrinking fan base, and apologize.
- Make it right. They need to fix the game and add at least some of the features they originally promised. Tell consumers that the features are coming and to be patient.
- If they are going to come out of this with their company intact, they at least must learn from this experience to prevent it from occurring again.
One of the biggest takeaways from this situation is the emphasis on hype and an initial burst of sales when a product is released. When you overhype your product, sure you might make excellent initial sales numbers, but it only takes customers using your product to know when they’ve been had. High refunds and low satisfaction will ensure that no one buys your product after the initial release. Consumers are increasingly savvy with their purchases, and often will look online to reviews and at other customer experiences to inform them in their decision making. The reviews for No Man’s Sky are overwhelmingly negative, and at $59.99 the game is deemed not worth the cost.
Investors of No Man’s Sky should have pushed them to delay the release of the game to allow the inclusion of promised features. No Man’s Sky could have been a series, with multiple high selling games giving them great returns if they put forth an initially successful product. Make a great product you can stand behind, and the rewards will come.
Since the writing of this blog, Hello Games has finally broken the silence by announcing “The Foundation Update”. This free update aims to add some of the content that was originally promised, and is to be the first of many free updates. A definite step in the right direction even if it took a long time to get there. Hopefully with these free updates to add content and make the game more similar to what it was originally promised they will be able to mend relations with their consumers and move forward.