It’s been reported recently that both Battlefield and Evolve developers DICE and Turtle Rock Studios are considering releasing game’s on Steam’s Early Access programs. When I read this, I was honestly quite bemused--as I usually associate indie developers to be the ones to put their games up on Early Access.
I’ll cut right to the chase: I don’t think it’s entirely wise for bigwig publishers to release their games on Early Access, as I think it’ll do more harm than good.
When a game is released on Steam’s Early Access, it usually just...stays there. In fact, if memory recalls, the only game to come out of Early Access--that I’m aware of--is Double Fine’s Broken Age. I’m probably wrong to think that Broken Age is the only game to fully release once showing up on Early Access, but it certainly feels like that.
The reason why I think it wouldn’t be wise for a bigwig developer to go Early Access is because when games go on Early Access they seem to be forever stay in that state, either as a Beta or an Alpha.
Yes, putting a game up on Early Access lets eager players jump onto the bandwagon until the wagon’s wheels break, but I reckon it’ll come to a point when players will start to rapidly lose interest in a bigwig developer’s game.
I think putting a big game on Early Access will receive a lot of short-term hype and a ton of coverage until enthusiasm and interest in said game is lost, to which only the really dedicated players may remain.
While it’s good to have loyal players stick around to play your game, I reckon it’ll be harmful to the developer because a lot of people may be turned off by the fact of paying way into an unfinished game as time goes.
There will be those who do, no doubt about it, and those who stick with the game may no doubt stick with it until its completion, which could also potentially harm the developer. As players have paid way into an unfinished products, stuck with the development process all the way through to completions, what’s stopping them for going, “welp - I’ve my fill of this game”?
No doubt the game’s full release will attract new players, but those early players could just up and leave having had their fill--which could be really detrimental to game’s release if too many players leave at once or over a short period of time.
So, how is it harmful to players? Well, it could be harmful under the notion of the game may seemingly never release, or the notion of the game being treated like a finished product when it isn’t.
Because “Beta is Beta”, some flaws can be excused in a game’s design, as it is “in Beta and unfinished, and therefore exempt from criticism”. But what if those flaws seemingly never get fixed under the “Beta is Beta” shield? If that turns out to be the case, players may have been burned out of their purchase into the Early Access, as they expected to have a finished product over X amount of time, but nothing has changed over Y amount of months.
I suppose it’d be easier to just color me skeptical about the whole situation, as indeed I am. I think players should be careful when considering buying their way into what games bigwig developers release on Steam’s Early Access, should they ever. If you want to buy into it, go ahead--just be mindful and be careful about what you get into.