Early Access to Cash-ins

By Ryan McLaughlin

A few years ago, Steam, the popular online game service, decided to try a new approach to their games service. They decided to allow developers to put up games in Alpha, or not finished states, and have users look at them and download them, called Early Access. “Discover, play, and get involved with games as they evolve” proclaims the banner. However, many games never make it past Early Access, and some of them intend to.

The platform in question (Photo Courtesy of Valve Corporation)

Day Z started as a popular mod for the game Arma 2. It added zombies into an otherwise realistic, military shooter. The mod gained popularity through the PC gaming crowd, until the designers decided to try it out for real. The game hit Steam’s Early Access in December of 2013. Two years later, Day Z is still in Early Access, and fans are not appreciative of this. In the reviews and comments sections, many fans are calling it a joke, saying that the game had potential but squandered it through Early Access.

At least Day Z seemed to have started with good intentions, and was playable for the most part. Many games on Steam’s Early Access are not even games and are not playable. The most recent example of this is Skate Man: Intense Rescue. This “game” will not even show up on Early Access, because they pulled it. However, it was on there long enough to have people start reviewing it. The game was filled with pre-bought assets that were cobbled together to make money and good screenshots. They also filed copyright claims against anyone who reviewed their broken mess that was supposed to be a game.

Another “game” is After Reset RPG. Jim Sterling discussed this and Skate Man in his latest video on Early Access. After Reset RPG is on Early Access with a hefty retail price of $50. It has no gameplay to speak of, as the player can only run around empty hallways, and dares to ask for $50. “Games” like this show how easy it is to abuse Steam’s systems to make a quick dollar. They try to hid behind the banner of Early Access, claiming more is to come. Yet, nothing does. Instead, we are left waiting for content we were promised when we paid you money.

However, some games do make use of Early Access. An article on MakeUseOf described how Arma 3, Divinity: Originial Sin, and Wasteland 2 all used Early Access, released, and were successful. These three show how Early Access is meant to be used. It’s supposed to allow consumers to buy into a game at a lower rate, which supplies to developer with some funds to work on finishing the game. The game isn’t supposed to sit there for two years and not progress, and it is not meant as a quick way to earn a dollar.

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