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Bethesda VP Pete Hines Empathizes With Hello Games Over Early No Man's Sky Copies

by Mike Futter on Aug 06, 2016 at 07:50 AM

Following Hello Games founder Sean Murray on Twitter over the past week has been a bit heartbreaking. After years of work, No Man's Sky is just days away from being available to the public. However, videos have emerged from consumers and media earlier than the studio would have liked.

Murray has implored fans to hold off on streaming or watching in order to preserve the experience for themselves. It's a refrain from a familiar song in the gaming world, with creators hoping the mystery of their years-long endeavors are preserved until the official launch.

Executive editor Andrew Reiner is currently at QuakeCon and had the chance to catch up with Bethesda Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing Pete Hines. That team went through something similar with last year's release of Fallout 4. With months now since launch, Reiner asked Hines to reflect on early copies, story spoilers, and how events like this impact developers.

“I don’t think people realize how upsetting this is. And how much it bothers and hurts the devs, and all of us," Hines told us. "Someone asked me on Fallout 4, 'What’s it like watching somebody play your game before launch on streams? I guess it must be like watching someone open presents before Christmas Day.' No. It’s like watching somebody else open your Christmas presents a week before Christmas. That’s what it really feels like. You put years of your life and energy into something and somebody goes and gets it early and, regardless of whether there’s a day one patch or not, it sucks."

Hines empathizes with Hello Games, given his own experiences with game launches. However, despite the emotional impact on developers, he is clear that he doesn't blame the fans for being eager. 

"As for the No Man’s Sky folks, I feel for them, and for any dev that has to go through it," he said. "It really sucks. It’s not the fans fault that the store decided to sell it. If I walked into a store and they said, 'Here’s Dishonored 2,' yeah, I would want to play that."

Dealing with the issue is a tricky one. Though there was almost a solution, at least on one console platform. The much maligned "always online" approach that Microsoft considered taking with the Xbox One would have mitigated the problem.

"Remember that conversation a few years ago about always online? Guess what that stops? It stops people from getting the game early and playing it before they are supposed to," Hines explained. "There are plenty of reasons to be unhappy about that, but one of the things that it actually did was prevent people from playing it early."

Some developers have realized this, and started dispatching retail copies early for games that are dependent on servers. There's no harm in distributing a disc if no one can actually play the game.

"If you look at what [Blizzard] did with Overwatch, which I thought was really smart and cool, they actually allowed stores to sell it early," Hines said. "The reason they did that is because they weren’t turning the servers on until a later date, and the disc does nothing until that happens. They could do that because it was an online-only multiplayer thing. You can’t do that with single player games like Dishonored 2. I can’t force you to connect to activate the game. That really screws over people without internet connections. That’s the rub."

For more from QuakeCon, check out our coverage of the attendee-only Prey and Dishonored 2 demos.