Early Access Games, From One Gamer to Another
I want to begin by saying that the following are just my thoughts based on playing multiple early access games ranging from open-world sandbox to first-person shooter zombie games to battle simulator games to underwater survival games to dungeon crawls and everything in between. The premise of this piece will hopefully be to be the grounds to spark a constructive conversation about early access games on any platform, may it be on pc or console, and I implore every reader to post their thoughts on the topics and ideas put forth. I will also try to avoid listing any specific titles so as to avoid any unnecessary conflicts that will pull attention away from the topic that is on the table.
The first topic I will touch on will be the idea of the ever-increasing popularity of releasing a game in early access versus releasing it as a finished product. I am getting early access fatigue from the amount of games coming out and how often I hear about a game that I play that is still in early access. I do want to mention that I am okay with a game coming out in early access if there are situations that arise that would require it to be released in early access. For example, if the developer making the game is running low of funds through reasons not solely on themselves, they are close to releasing the game, or they just need that extra, little push that releasing in early access gives them. What I am trying to say is that I feel like some companies are releasing their game into early access because they either feel like they can get away with releasing a game that is not fully finished and use that excuse for all of the bugs in their game or they just want to get the money of a released game without finishing their game. On the other hand, I do recognize that not all games released into early access fall under these categories, but I was using these examples to explain a small sample.
The next topic at hand that I want to dive into touches base with some of the topics that I mentioned in the previous paragraph. If a company releases a game into early access and it becomes widely popular, where it sells as many copies as a fully released game, would said company have any motivation to actually continue and finish the game? Would the company have any say over what direction the game goes? Is it solely up to the community to say? Or is it a delicate balance between the two? To answer the first question, it would have to depend on the company and the reasoning behind making the game. If the game was a huge success and sold as many copies as a fully released game, then the developers would have no motivation to finish the game and therefore stop all development on the game, and I cannot really blame them for thinking along those lines. Another direction that they can take is taking the mindset of 'if the game is this popular when it is not even fully finished, then imagine how popular it would be if it was finished', which no one could blame them for. On the flipside, if the game has mediocre sales, then I would imagine they would have more incentive to continue the development of the game until it hits their expectations. Now on to answer the second question. I guess it can be sort of a fine line to walk. On one hand, the creators own the game and they have every right and should continue working on the game with their original end goal in mind. On the other hand, the community has paid for their game where it is in that current state, so they might have some say because the end goal of the game might not be of any interest to them where the current state of the game might be. A counterargument to the latter would be that they bought the game fully knowing that the end game might not be anything like the current state of the game. This leads to the consumer knowing what they were getting into and the developers effectively communicating the possibility of change before people bought the game itself.
The last two topics that I will talk about are whether or not a game in early access should have DLC and whether or not they should raise the price of the said game at the official launch of the game. Personally, I think the developers of a game that is in early access should wait till at least the full release of the game before they release any DLC that might come with the game. If they do release DLC before the game is fully released then there is a potential backlash from the community for multiple reasons, ranging from claiming the developers might be greedy or that they should have spent the time developing the DLC on the base game itself. Now for the price; it is hard to say whether or not a game should have its price raised when it gets launched out of early access, but overall, I would agree that the price could and should be raised. Since the game is completed, or at least completed enough to be considered out of early access, then it would have more content in the game, ideally, than when the game was in early access and therefore be worth more overall than before the launch. As far as how much the developers should raise the price, that would depend on several factors, such as the original cost of the game, partially on the community, etc. Ideally, I would say less than double, but like I said, it varies from game to game.
We, as a gaming community, have definitely seen an increase in the quantity of early access games out in the market today, and this could be both a good and bad thing. The good is obviously that some games that would have never been able to make it to full launch now have a chance to make it thanks to some earlier backing from people buying the game pre-launch. The negatives could be that some companies can see it as an opportunity to do less and still obtain the same amount of revenue. Either reason, it's interesting to see the games and projects that come out of early access. It is at this point that I would implore you, the reader of this article, to feel free to comment below to continue the constructive conversation that I started about the topics brought up about early access games and any that I might have missed. Plus, I would like to remind people that the ideas that were brought up in this article are just my thoughts and takes from playing early access games and my understanding of them so far. I might come back and make a rebuttal article about early access games at a later point if my stand or thoughts might have changed, and thank you for reading my article, I hope you enjoyed it.