A lot of media outlets have begun writing about the dangers of Early Access on Steam. Why did I never think about this before? Inspired by these guys, I think this is the perfect time to explain Early Access and how it is impacting video game development and the industry as a whole.
Early Access – According to Steam, developing games by including the community’s feedback, evolving elements of the game over a period of time is the way games are meant to be made.
Back in the days, most of us gained access to Beta or Alpha (unfinished games) releases free of charge. We would then play the game, offer feedback and continue playing if the developers respond to some of the biggest concerns in the game. The game was FREE of charge and allowed people to participate either via invitation or via registration. This was a pretty neat system for casual and enthusiast gamers to get their hands dirty with a game in development and production.
Come Early Access, all of this is changing. With this new addition to Steam, customers now gain access to an Alpha or Beta version by PAYING for the game. Developers now put their game up on Steam and require people to BUY the game before it is actually finished. The players then spend time on the game to offer feedback following which the developers of the game improve it.
I personally find this disturbing to see that so many people have actually spent so much money on an unfinished product that actually may or may not fix itself over a period of time. What if you don’t like where the game is headed? What if you didn’t like the game in the first place? You can’t actually criticize the game developer because you made the decision to purchase the game yourself. Is it not possible to get a refund you may ask. According to Steam policies, you have to contact the game developer if you wish to be refunded.
What if an Early Access game is cancelled? STEAM DOES NOT REFUND YOU! They treat the purchase of an Early Access game equal to the purchase of a fully finished retail release.
Here’s a video from TotalBiscuit discussing the same. He dives deeper into the Steam Early Access system and how Valve needs to take responsibility to change some of their policies towards Early Access.