Everything about the new video game No Man’s Sky is big: Thanks to procedural generation, it features 18 quintillion planets, each of them fully explorable, enormous, and unique. The promise of that much freedom inspired almost ecstastic anticipation in the two years leading up to the game’s release, creating a community that “often felt less like enthusiasts waiting excitedly for a piece of entertainment and more like acolytes waiting with bated breath for a religious ascension,” as Laura Hudson wrote in her Slate review.
Fan disappointment is equally big, it turns out. Now that the game—which came out in early August—is actually available, most of that pre-release fervor has died down, leaving nothing so much as an angry hangover in its wake. The frustration is understandable: Though those almost endless worlds are pockmarked with countless points of interest, traversing them can be an oceanically dull experience. In a largely favorable write up for the Ringer, Ben Lindbergh writes, “The environments, so striking and varied from afar, reveal their seams and sameness upon closer inspection.” Similarly, Hudson observes, “The vastness and variation of the game inevitably make it, at times, mundane; when the possibilities are nigh-limitless, they can’t all be interesting.”
Perhaps unsurpisingly, then, some players—many of whom had pre-ordered the game far in advance—are trying to get their money back. (The game costs $60.) And, in some cases, they appear to be succeeding, even if they’ve already put in hours with the game’s expanisve universe. Over the weekend, gaming and pop culture publications reported that merchants were acknowledging such grumbling. Most notably, some outlets claimed that Steam, the online PC gaming marketplace from Valve, was offering refunds even to players who had put more than 70 hours into the game. Given that the company normally cuts off returns after two hours of play time, that would have marked a remarkable recognition of a single game’s supposed failures.
As it happens, however, Steam doesn’t appear to have actually changed anything. A statement on the game’s official page reads, “The standard Steam refund policy applies to No Man’s Sky. There are no special exemptions available.” Despite that, many players do seem to have jumped ship, even without the guarantee of cash back. As one Reddit user notes, the game lost almost 20,000 users between Aug. 26 and Aug. 27, going from 778,396 owners to 758,952.
Whatever the situation on Steam, other internet users claim to have received their money back from Sony after dozens of hours with the console version. That’s left some rolling their eyes: Shahid Kamal Ahmad, a former employee of Sony, has argued that if you seek a “refund after playing a game for 50 hours you’re a thief.” Ahmad arguably has a point: Putting 50 hours into a game that costs $60 is a relatively reasonable return on investment. It’s hard to imagine sticking with the game for that long if you weren’t getting something out of the experience.