Stories

In what seems to be a month of talking about stuff about No Man’s Sky but isn’t really about No Man’s Sky really, here we go again.

So we’re a week into the game’s release and by just about any sales metric, the game is a phenomenal success. We’re talking numbers I can barely grasp for an indie game in one week and that’s without knowing the volume of sales on the Playstation side and having to account for the mainly inaccurate polling of SteamSpy whilst relying on their numbers for the PC. There’s also an unknown amount of GOG sales to factor in as well.

I back of a beermatted at somewhere in the one and a half million copies sold but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was even (much) more than that. This is an incredible amount of copies sold. For the first five days, the game was seeing between 40 and 80 thousand people playing it on Steam at any one time. For contrast, A new Deus Ex launched last night and hit somewhere around the 28 thousand player mark. On launch night, No Man’s Sky had over two hundred thousand people playing it at the same time.

Of course, the thing about concurrent users is that it isn’t a maximum, it’s just how many people playing it all at once when polled. People will duck in, duck out, spend an hour here, spend an hour there. It’s different people not all the same people. So it’s invariably pretty safe to assume there’s more individual accounts playing across the day than is represented by that number.

The internet has decided the game is a failure. Sort of as it did when it decided Ghostbusters was a flop. The story has already been decided, now it’s just finding things to squeeze in to fit. It’s a fairly regular thing that the internet settles on its own stories and feeds itself, often with the press falling into it as well because in the world of an enthusiast press, there’s a Venn Diagram there of overlapping interests. Cutting through internet babble and the world outside an enthusiast bubble isn’t always simple.

Since launch, there’s been a constant story going round that everyone hates No Man’s Sky, we’ve been over this though, both in how the anger is fed by the usual suspects in an angry internet machine that seems purpose built to do little more than fuel anger and how we assume the voices of the discontent angry men of videogames speak for everyone in videogames. Sometimes, sure enough, there is a truth there and poor games are just poor and few people really like them, other times (as with No Man’s Sky) the story has been decided and no facts can buckle its unreality. It has been decided, everything now will be bent into proof.

Like I say, this is not just about No Man’s Sky, No Man’s Sky is this week’s example. This is becoming an all too common thing and more so as the angry internet weeds its way into further acceptance, finds better ways of sustaining folk’s anger.

But it is a story of the numbers telling a different story. The numbers speak of a phenomenal launch for a game, the huge amount of players and respective playtimes speak to a far more content number of people than internet chatter would have you believe. Holding out in the Steam top sellers for days, even during the release of a much awaited big box title is an amazing feat for a game. Despite the internet at large’s story, people want to play No Man’s Sky. People are playing No Man’s Sky. No Man’s Sky is not a failure. It is a success.

It’s just maybe not the game a portion of the internet wanted but that’s OK. A portion of the internet already has all the videogames. We’re going to keep coming back to this more and more as we push outwards to reach more people, we’ve had plenty of it the past few years anyway.

But eh oh, still the story has to carry on. See, people are fed up now as there’s a 90% drop in concurrent players! That it’s still an enormous number, well, that doesn’t matter. It’s proof. It’s dropped out of the top sellers or slipped down the list! It’s proof! When it’s quite a feat for any game to sit there more than a day. Four or five days is still amazing work. And, of course, that’s a spot titles can pop back into with the right push.

The internet is shit at numbers. It’s how we come to a constant run of Nintendo is doomed stories, how Pokemon Go ‘only’ having 30M regular players is seen as some sort of disaster, how a game selling over a million copies in its launch week and not selling another million a week later is fitted into some sort of disaster scenario. Except it’s one thing with silly press stories and another when the angry internet paints its pictures. In the former, there’s still a hope for some sanity. In the latter, shit spreads so fast now, dumped in comments sections forever more as Science Fact, it becomes difficult to counter.

I’m not writing this so much in defence of No Man’s Sky (although it most definitely is), I’m writing it as one small bullshit puncturing point and to hope people can slowly start to recognise the sheer noise and fury of an angry internet is a noise and fury that makes up stories to suit itself. Stories designed to perpetuate upset and anger, even when most people are chill.

There’s always more people to tell these stories to and that they will.

And maybe Therapy? were sort of right all along and happy people do have no stories. I dunno.