In an industry filled with Closed Betas, Open Betas, Alpha testing and Early Access, have we crossed the line from a company paying people to test their game to people paying for the right to test the game? We’ve seen plenty of Early Access titles hit Steam in recent years and it doesn’t seem like that train is slowing down anytime soon. The latest phenomenon to take Steam by force is another Early Access title, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) is a battle royale, last man standing survival shooter where you and up to 99 other people kill each other until there is only one man left standing who is proclaimed the winner.
Now to clear the air before we jump off in the deep end, I’m not trying to single out PUBG, it’s the latest example of an Early Access title that has become a sensation across the internet. What is an Early Access game and how is it different from a demo or a beta of a game? Early Access games rely on player funding in order to bring the game to completion. You buy the game and you get to play it while it’s being developed, sounds great in theory but is it? Many times people are burned by Early Access games not being finished, ceasing development or the game just disappeared from thin air. While Early Access is a concept devised in good spirits, the actual practice of it can be mixed.
If you click on Steam’s Early Access section, you’ll see more games than ever, developers requesting help or financial aid. But is this a situation that developers are taking advantage of? Let’s take a look at a really popular game by the name of Ark: Survival Evolved. This game costs the standard $60 that we pay for fully finished games, but it’s still classified as an Early Access title. This game came out on June 2, 2015 and with 125,000 reviews on Steam, it still didn’t have the finances to finish the core game? Ark: Survival Evolved is slated to leave Early Access this month as most of the “core components” will be done yet they already released an expansion named Ragnarok. This seems a bit odd to me. Why release an expansion if the “core components” aren’t done yet? This is where the issue becomes a moral issue.
While the player base doesn’t seem to mind, is this a trend that is becoming too dangerous to ignore? While I think Early Access can be used for good, PUBG has been updating, communicating, offering opportunity for feedback, there are other games, like ARK, that had a great concept and a great funding run, but have been finished for a time and simply just call themselves ‘Early Access’ so they can get better finalized review scores once the game is taken out of Early Access. That’s my small, evidently controversial take on Early Access titles. Tomorrow, we’ll be talking microtransactions! Stay classy everyone.