Early Access is arguably one of the more controversial aspects of Steam. It allows people who are excited about an upcoming title to play early, unfinished versions of a game for a fee and it allows further funding of the game so developers may more easily finish the product. You are paying for a unfinished product essentially in the hopes that your money will help it get finished, arguably sooner and with more polish that it would’ve had without help.
While that might be a great idea for struggling indie developers, it’s easy to see the pitfalls if bigger publishers (or even highly successful indie studios) get involved. These are some factors I really hope Sony is bringing into consideration, as they are seriously mulling over bringing their own Early Access platform to the PS4. SCEA VP of developer relations Adam Boyes has referred to the idea of Early Access as a “massive conversation” internally.
“We’re working through that right now. We’re figuring out what’s okay. We obviously have our tech requirement checklist that people have to adhere to. We’re internally discussing [what the list will] look like and what are the caveats. At what point does [a game meet standards of release]? We still at some point ensure that we’re being mindful of the consumer.
“We don’t want somebody to stumble across that title and expect a full product, and have a negative experience. So it’s still a project that a lot of minds are considering. No details yet, but it’s something on the top of my mind every day.”
“There are different types of people,” he postulated, “who always back games, enjoy Kickstarters, try things that they know aren’t finished but are willing to help make better. I remember playing Rust and laughing hysterically. And there were some things that weren’t finished, but I had a ton of fun.”
I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with the idea of an Early Access program itself, but it has to be handled very carefully. People would have to be made very aware that they are paying for an unfinished product up front, which as much as we talk about games being released unfinished on consoles nowadays with constant patches and updates, is not nearly on the same level of unfinished as something you might see on an Early Access program. And obviously mega-publishers like EA & Ubisoft getting games on there would just taint the whole experience, so hopefully Sony will know to basically leave the program open to only smaller indie studios if they do decide to implement it at some point,
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