No Man’s Sky will be the largest video game ever, an open invitation to a galaxy with over 18 quintillion planets to discover and explore. When a player lands on one of said 18 quintillion planets that no one has visited before — something that presumably won’t be uncommon — he or she will have the opportunity to name both it and its fauna. Names will be recorded in an official online database.
Hello Games have taken precautions to prevent the immature from naming planets after their junk (or other people’s space junk). But is Hello Games prepared for corporations willing to drop some dime in an attempt to colonize in the name of brand awareness?
Hello Games has plenty of time to get in front of this thing, but that time might be better spent refining gameplay. Just look at Second Life, which is probably the closest thing we’ve got to precedent.
Launched in 2003, Second Life was the first massive online game that attained mainstream exposure due to its vast world, which was billed as a digital utopia. It was early in the days of ubiquitous internet and major brands embarked on a gold rush en masse. American Apparel, Dell, Nissan, and Toyota sold goods, real and virtual, that were purchased through the game. Coca-Cola installed vending machines. Wells Fargo bought an island where players could seek financial advice. Fox held a red carpet premiere of X-Men: The Last Stand. Reuters set up a bureau.
No one got rich on Second Life. The brands that sought digital awareness abandoned efforts when the hype proved bigger than the reality. American Apparel closed, Wells Fargo deleted its island, and Dell stopped selling PCs to people already playing on PCs. The Reuters journalist assigned to Second Life, Eric Krangel, said the gig “was as fun as watching paint dry”.
Second Life still boasts an active user base that runs in the tens of thousands, but is it a utopia? Hardly. Some lives were changed, but the non-digital world kept spinning. Not even promises of Oculus Rift integration seem potent enough to resurrect the largely abandoned game.
No Man’s Sky doesn’t lend itself to branding like Second Life either. The most that could possibly happen is… naming planets. Pepsi could have “Pepsi World” but they can’t litter the land with vendors or hold cyber music festivals. The giant walking robots that police players would be a giant headache to keep at bay from Space Drake.
And then there’s the size of the thing: 18 quintillion is a big fucking number. Though it might be possible for Coke to name a significant portion of a galaxy by employing a bunch of professional colonists — that’s how land grabs work — it would require the sort of concentrated, cynical effort that leads to terrible publicity for a company. Yes, Coke could get some relatively cheap publicity, but the marginal benefit is light as a feather weighed against the potential interplanetary shitstorm of angry gamers railing against a sullied dream. In a sense, No Man’s Sky is too beautiful for advertising. In another sense, it just wasn’t built to mirror a capitalist
Still, we can all go hang out on Colbert Prime.
*No Man’s Sky will be released in June 2016.*