No Man’s Sky has been spitting out cosmic adventures for seven years and, despite not meeting expectations at launch, has evolved into an incredibly varied sandbox thanks to Hello Games’ fantastic post-launch support. With free, expansion-sized updates coming out every year, it keeps beckoning players back.
This month, according to Hello Games founder Sean Murray, is actually its “biggest” in the last few years, despite competition from the long-awaited Starfield, another sandbox that ticks a lot of the same boxes.
7 years in and No Man’s Sky is having its biggest month in the last few years! 💪Across all platforms – PC, XBox, Gamepass, Switch, PlayStation, Mac and VR 🙏 Welcome to the community ❤️ pic.twitter.com/rNKMGFXoBSSeptember 11, 2023
This is across all platforms, says Murray, but on Steam alone it’s had its best month since September 2021, and one of its best months overall. It’s quite the achievement for a game of this age. It’s worth noting that its largest update of the year arrived in late August, followed by a new Expedition at the start of this month, so both of these things are major contributing factors.
A narrative is already forming that this boost is due to disappointed Starfield players migrating over to No Man’s Sky, but there isn’t much to back that up aside from some anecdotal claims from Starfield’s detractors. With a launch the scale of Starfield’s, it’s common for games with similar features to see a bump as they benefit from the increased visibility. A lot of comparisons have been made between the two, so it’s only natural that lapsed players will jump back in, while new ones decide to see what all the fuss is about.
That said, there are undoubtedly some players who haven’t gelled with Starfield who are now seeking their space kicks in No Man’s Sky. I’m among them. While No Man’s Sky doesn’t have the type of hand-crafted RPG stories Starfield boasts, both games tout a multitude of worlds waiting to be explored, and when it comes to that aspect No Man’s Sky is hands down the stronger game.
It’s also had the benefit of seven years of post-launch support, of course. So many of the things that I enjoy about No Man’s Sky, from the flexible base building to the vehicles to the fleets did not exist at launch, and while the sandbox exploration of its galaxy has always been better than what Starfield offers, if we compare both games at launch, I’ve got to admit that Starfield is overall in a better position.
What this really shows is that, reassuringly, space is big enough for more than one massive cosmic sandbox. Starfield might be the biggest launch of the year, a game that every site, including PCG, is covering extensively every day, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting things happening in other games, or lots of players still enjoying them.