It's usually better to under-promise and over-deliver. Setting reasonable expectations makes it that much easier to exceed them, and most people would rather find out a product is better than anticipated than be disappointed. No Man's Sky was infamous for doing the opposite: the indie game with grand aspirations of letting you explore procedurally generated planets became a AAA title with a totally unique galaxy for every player. Its launch was hyped, but when people saw just how limited it was, No Man's Sky became a cautionary tale about game marketing. Despite this, and with the help of the NEXT update, the game is reaching new heights.
Before NEXT, player complaints included the lack of a multiplayer component, a dearth of things to do on each planet and the game's habit of generating the same "random" planets in the same places across multiple galaxies. But the intense backlash didn't stop Hello Games from continuing to update No Man's Sky, and the NEXT update that debuted on July 24 has actually managed to reverse the game's fortunes, at least for now. No Man's Sky is currently the top-selling game on Steam (with added thanks to a 50% discount from $60 to $30), and its player base has also skyrocketed.
Steam Charts gathers information about the number of concurrent players in Steam games. In the last 30 days, the site recorded a 1,043.55% increase in the average number of people exploring No Man's Sky each month, bringing it from 1,035.4 in June to 11,840.4 in July. The game previously averaged 1,000 players each day; at time of writing it has 61,828. Peak counts also rose from 2,047 to 96,954. No Man's Sky pales in comparison to games like Dota 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive--not to mention non-Steam titles like Fortnite--but it's still on the upswing.
Essentially all of that growth can be attributed to the NEXT update's July 24 debut. This isn't just a bunch of bug fixes: Hello Games said the NEXT update adds a "full multiplayer experience, near-unlimited base building, command of freighter armadas, a graphical overhaul" and more. The company also overhauled the game's opening section, added character customization tools and introduced the option to switch between first and third-person perspectives. Numerous content updates, like improved bases and smarter creatures, also changed gameplay.
Those updates, along with the other major expansions Hello Games has released over the last few years, have essentially made No Man's Sky a brand new game. It probably won't escape the backlash surrounding its launch--too many gamers were too disappointed with the difference between their expectations and the game's reality--but it might at least get some recognition for how much it's been improved since. Hello Games doesn't seem to be done working on No Man's Sky either, so maybe the next NEXT update will let the game escape its launch's shadow.