Early Access – Is it really as bad as all that?
The wait between new game releases can sometimes be frustrating. Thankfully as gamers we live in a time of digital distribution. This allows gamers to browse online stores for new titles on a daily basis. One such tag that gamers will often see with titles on a digital store front is the early access tag. While some associate the tag with a money grab, that’s not always the case.
Why is early access so divisive, one word experience
Let me start off by saying that I’ve purchased more early access games than I can count. Some of them have been great, while others failed to deliver. This is the main reason why this business model is so divisive. Under ideal circumstances players will purchase a game in early access. Over time they’ll provide feedback to the developers, who’ll then take that feedback into future releases of the game. Until you one day get what will be the finished game. A game which you already own because you bought it back when it was still in development. This is how it’s supposed to work, sadly that’s not always how things work out.
As with so many things video game related this too has its detractors. One of the biggest criticisms against this business model. Is the fact that publishers are getting gamers to pay for unfinished games. It’s difficult to argue with this one as it’s factually true.
The second biggest criticism I hear the most. Is that there’s no guarantee that the game will ever be finished. Sadly, this does in fact happen, although it’s not always because the developer was being dishonest. Regardless of why an early access game is left unfinished the result is the same for the consumer. They’re left with an unfinished game that will never be complete.
Lastly people tend to complain that when they purchase a game in this stage of development. That they’re essentially paying to be testers for the game. This isn’t far from the truth. Many developers will elicit feedback from the community to improve the game while it’s in this development stage. This criticism is unique in the sense that as many people complain about it, just as many people praise it. Which I will elaborate on below.
Of course for every critic there’s a proponent, the early access business model is no different. I mentioned above that some dislike the business model because of basically being a paid tester. Ironically that’s also while many people love this model. When done properly people who buy games in this stage of development give feedback. This feedback is ideally used to help improve future releases of the game.
There is also the use that early access plays in funding game development. Many indie devs use this business model to help fund the development of their game. People pay for the game now before it’s finished, and that money is used to further develop the game. Interesting enough both of these play into this last bit of praise.
The fact that this business model allows fans to play some role in-game development. Many gamers dream of developing their own game. For many this allows them to feel that they’ve contributed even if it was indirectly.
That’s All Folks
While the term early access often carries a negative connotation. That shouldn’t always be the case, many devs have used the business model successfully as it was intended. Sadly, theses success stories often get overshadowed by the large number of failures. Why this is unfortunate it’s sadly a byproduct of the age of self-publishing video games. So, the next time you see a game in this stage of development. Look it over where good before you dismiss it, look to see how often it’s updated. Check to see how active the development team is before making your decision.
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