Thursday, 26 December 2013

Steam + Early Access = too much?


When Steam released Left4Dead 2 to everyone for free yesterday it certainly caused a bit of a meltdown.  During this meltdown I decided to check the steam community discussion boards and many a thread about the rise of the early access game on steam. 

It's a good question since there have been a lot of them arriving recently, some of them good like War of the Vikings, DayZ standalone and Starpoint Gemini 2.  There are others though that may seem a little more questionable and players aren't sure if they put their near full price money down for the early access title, will they be able to get a refund if the developer goes under.

Now I personally think that if a game enters the early access stage on steam it's likely to have the capital to complete development to a launch standard at least.  Post game though it may not have enough to continue such development and I guess that is what the early access money is going towards.

Once again I think steam have pioneered a new direction in game development, first with the greenlight program which has allowed many a game to be given a chance while early access represents phase two of this program.  Early access is also clearly influenced by Kickstarter which runs along a similar idea of people paying to fund the program, only difference here is that you can play the game in it's very early form as it's being built.

That aside I do think steam should take a careful approach to this new system of purchases they have created.  The day one of the early access titles fails to deliver a finished product will be the day early access is re-assessed.  It's only a matter of time really and I would assume Steam have made some checks into each game that applies for this status on their store.  But as we know with these large corporate entities these kinds of common sense checks are skipped to cut corners. 

I don't think there are too many early access titles though since Steam has been a great location to discover new indie titles and as well getting the latest major release on PC.  Early access is simply the next logical step in the crowd funding scene, at least when it comes to interactive media like video games.  I would advise caution to customers though as you may want to do your homework on any early access title.  Check the steam discussion boards, check out the developer and what they have done in the past and finally ask the devs on their forums or the steam forums, get some answers.  If they respond it generally means they are keen to get players involved in their game which is a good sign.

Common sense really, that's all it takes really.

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