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Disgruntled No Man's Sky players thrust Sony's PS4 refund policy back into the spotlight

"It's like they put a gun to my head."

Sony's digital video game refund policy has been the subject of investigation on more than one occasion. Now, it's come under fire again from angry customers after the release of No Man's Sky.

Over the course of this week, Eurogamer has been contacted by a raft of disgruntled No Man's Sky players who have tried - and failed - to get a refund from Sony after buying Hello Games' space title from the PlayStation Store.

There are a number of reasons why some No Man's Sky players demand a refund; people we've spoken to cite everything from crashes to motion sickness. There's also the feeling by some that No Man's Sky isn't the game they had expected, based on promotional material such as trailers.

Sony's PlayStation Store refund policy states that you can cancel a digital content purchase within 14 days from the date of transaction - provided you have not started downloading or streaming it.

If you have started downloading a game, you can't get a refund "unless the content is faulty".

Sony's refund policy is in stark contrast to that of Valve, which sells the PC version of No Man's Sky on Steam. Steam gives players a no questions asked refund if the request is made within 14 days of purchase, and the title has been played for less than two hours.

Here's a collection of stories from Eurogamer readers who have got in touch to express their frustration at Sony.

Eurogamer reader Blastiel, 35, from Manchester, told Eurogamer he played No Man's Sky for an hour-and-a-half and found it crashed three times in that period. He also feels misled by promotional material he saw on the PlayStation Store.

Blastiel spoke with a PlayStation customer support rep called Noah to ask for a refund. He says he was told that he was eligible for a refund, but if he did get one, he'd never be able to play No Man's Sky again.

"The practice Sony is employing is a bit underhanded, to say the least," Blastiel said.

"I was told I couldn't re-buy it off the store digitally, and I couldn't buy a physical copy because whatever system they employ in the background wouldn't let me run it. They delete the license from your account, and that seems to put a block on it.

"It's a bit like, if I went into Footlocker and bought a pair of trainers, took them home, found there's a big rip somewhere I hadn't spotted, took them back and they said, you can have a refund, but you can never wear trainers again. It just seems ridiculous."

Blastiel said he declined to go through with getting a refund because he wants to play No Man's Sky again at some point.

"I would happily re-buy the game at a later date if it improved, if the features promised were put in, if the crashing was fixed, because these things do get fixed over time," he said.

"But I didn't really want to get my money back and then never be able to play it again. It just seems counter-productive.

"It's like they put a gun to my head."

Roscoe, 31, from Shropshire, told Eurogamer he feels he was lied to by No Man's Sky advertising, and pointed to a Reddit thread that drew attention recently for listing a number of promised features that are absent from the game.

Roscoe also reported problems with crashes, particularly when trying to use the game's multi-tool stations and warping to a different area of space.

Like Blastiel, Roscoe was told by a Sony call centre agent that he was entitled to a refund, but he would lose the right to play the game again.

"I really do like the game, but I feel as though I paid 50 for a game that isn't finished," Roscoe said.

"But I don't want to give up the right to ever play No Man's Sky again. That seems really extreme to me."

Paul, 34 from Leeds, tried this week to get a refund from Sony because of crash issues and what he believes was false advertising around multiplayer. Paul's also upset at the dynamic theme included with the digital pre-order. "It's just a static picture in the background," he said, "not very dynamic."

Paul contacted PlayStation on its support number to ask for a refund, but was told because he had downloaded the game and started playing, he couldn't get one.

"I then tried mentioning the false advertising but just got told the game was never advertised as multiplayer even though the boxes had the sticker on, and on multiple occasions it was confirmed you could meet other players but it wasn't 'likely' to happen," Paul added.

"Oh and the promised pre-order dynamic there? Well apparently it is dynamic because of 'the art style', never mind that it just a static background. The phone operator suggested that dynamic themes don't have to move to be dynamic. I kid you not.

"In short if you want a refund for No Man's Sky, good luck, as it doesn't look likely to happen."

And finally Mark, from North Wales, asked Sony for a refund after finding No Man's Sky caused him motion sickness.

"I've occasionally suffered from gaming-induced motion sickness in the past, and it can be incredibly unpleasant and debilitating, Mark said. "At it's worst, you might as well write off the rest of the day and go to bed.

"I think a combination of things in No Man's Sky are causing it - the unnatural movement acceleration, the narrow FOV - but I think he main culprit is that even when you're standing completely motionless your view is constantly drifting and floating slightly.

"My current situation means that my gaming budget is limited, and I couldn't afford to have paid 50 for a game that makes me feel ill, so I requested a refund from Sony. I was told I would receive a response within 24 hours. Four days later, a reply arrived, declining my request."

Mark said he has tried to go back to No Man's Sky, taking tablets in a bid to mitigate the motion sickness, "but on a couple of occasions it's really knocked me sideways".

Sony's refund policy makes it clear that if a video game is faulty, customers should get their money back. But what defines "faulty"? A few crashes? More than a few crashes? A field of view that causes motion sickness?

Even harder to define is this issue of false advertising. Should those who feel No Man's Sky does not match expectations set by Sony trailers be entitled to a refund?

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I asked Sony for a comment on the situation, and a rep responded with a two-part statement.

The first part deals with technical issues. The Sony rep called on No Man's Sky players who are experiencing issues to report them to Hello Games, which, Sony stressed, is working hard to improve the game.

It's true that Hello Games has worked to patch up No Man's Sky. In fact the game's first post-launch patch just went live. Sony said an additional patch is expected at the start of next week.

Here's that portion of the statement:

  • We are aware that some players have been experiencing issues whilst playing No Man's Sky. The development team have been working very hard to address these issues and published a patch yesterday which resolved many of the reported bugs.
  • For those who continue to experience problems, we would advise in the first instance that they report their issues so that the team are aware and can work to fix them. The team at Hello Games are continuing to monitor the situation, and an additional patch is expected at the start of next week to further improve and address identified bugs.

Now, onto Sony's refund policy. The company pointed me toward its published refund policy, which we've already discussed. And it promised that those who do get a refund will be able to re-buy and play No Man's Sky again, which suggests Sony needs to send an updated memo out to its customer support staff, if it hasn't done already.

Here's the statement:

  • Players are entitled to receive refunds in line with the published refund policy on PlayStation.com.
  • In instances where players receive a refund, they will of course be able to re-purchase the game at later date and play.

Sony's statement is unlikely to appease the disgruntled No Man's Sky players who have contacted Eurogamer this week. All we've spoken with have reluctantly accepted their fate and dropped their refund requests.

Mark told the Sony rep who had denied him a refund: "I accept your decision, withdraw my request for a refund and consider this matter now closed. However, you have damaged your relationship with this longtime, loyal customer and I will be a lot more reluctant to give Sony my money in future."

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