Let's Be Honest: Early Access Is Probably Only About Getting Immediate Money

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor

H1Z1 dam

Here's a thought: The sole purpose of early access, at least for “persistent” online games, is to get as much money as soon as possible. That's all. Nothing else.

That's not necessarily an evil or greedy thing. Small developers need that seed money to make their product come to life. But for larger developers? And developers who insist it's so they can “get community feedback to make a better game”? I'm not convinced. Instead, that seems like just another way to get people to feel good about parting with their money for an unfinished product.

Break it down like this: What is the primary purpose of a game company? Like any company, it's to make money. How do you do that? By producing an excellent game that will draw in players. Yes, some companies put a greater emphasis on the second, and I don't mean to think they're all corporate-minded, “money-first” outfits, but they still want to turn a profit. To do that, they need to make the best game possible.

Early Access Rust

Or, more specifically, they need to make a game that will draw in the most people. Candy Crush Saga ain't great, but it brings in the numbers. And here's where the notion of “early access as a way to improve our game” hits a stumbling block. If drawing in players to your finished product is the reason you want to “improve your game,” then why allow so many people in when it's a virtual piece of shit?

Early access may be seen as an alpha, or beta, or pre-alpha, or whatever to the developers, and to a fair number of players, but for many, it's effectively a launch. When your game is offered for sale to anyone, it barely matters if if you call it early access, beta, or launch. Even Steam fails to make the distinction, using “Release Date,” not “Early Access Date,” even when there are BIG CAPITAL LETTERS DIRECTLY ABOVE THE DATE TELLING YOU IT'S EARLY ACCESS. It's gamers' first chance to play the game, even in an imperfect form, and they're not going to be forgiving about someone taking their money and not offering a full product.

And a lot of people move on from early access games before they fully launch; it's a fear many developers have, that players will judge and quit their game before it's actually finished. How does that serve the purpose of building the player base? One of my favorite Extra Credits videos expertly tackles this thorny subject:

But does having all those people in early really help developers make a better game? Sure, probably. But how does that differ from how online games have always worked? At the start of this piece, I referred specifically to persistent online games, meaning stuff that continues to develop even after launch, such as MMOs, lobby-based online shooters, and so on. Early access for one-off, single-player titles are another story. For games with continual development, does early access actually help?

In the old days – you know, three or four years ago – you'd develop your MMO-type game in secret for a while, then do a closed beta, open beta, then launch. At that point, the point when the most people would hop in, you'd probably have at least a pretty good and stable game (after those often-unstable first few days) and whatever was wrong with the game would be fixed in short order, and more content would be added along the way. It wasn't a perfect formula, but it worked well enough.

Does being in early access for several years solve that? Do games that launch out of early access have fewer issues than games developed in the “old” style? That's a subjective question, but I don't know if the answer would be an unquestionable “yes.” And, as mentioned, if people see the early access “launch” as the true launch of the game and have already left by the time of the “real” launch, then what was the point? The game might be clearly better, but if fewer people playing it, well... Of course, if you already have those people's money, well, was that the point in the first place?

And this only addresses issues with early access games that people pay for that actually have a full launch. We won't get into ones that don't, with all the money paid to their developers slipping away into the void.

So this brings us back to the ultimate question: Does early access really make a game “better,” in the business sense of having it actually succeed in the long term? Do enough players stick with it through the problems and lack of progress, perceived or real, to make it a worthwhile long-term investment? Those are good questions. What it definitely does is bring in money in the short term, and that might just be its only true purpose.

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In this article: H1Z1, DayZ, , Rust.

About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

Discussion (16)

Niizzy 5 years ago
ARK was in "early access" and was selling DLCs on top of that. Yet, nobody cared. The devs is swimming in money yet their game is still shit.

Deee 7 years ago
Rust is the best game ever !
The old "Rust Legacy" game is done and also included in the price u paying for this alpha.
They completely remake it with the new engine...

Ive never seen so damn good developers before.
Every week updates, bugfixes etc and every 4 weeks also new content with improvements to gameplay.
The game is cheap and no pay to win.

I´ll support it as much as I can
try it

ryan 7 years ago
im ok with early access buying in and supporting the game so they can make more positive re enforcements to it. what im not a fan of is keeping it in that state for longer than a couple months. its total bullshit to keep a game in there for a year or more. the game needs to be played by more make the open betas free get fixed what you need fixed and offer cash shop items early to those that are willing to pay so they can test these items out and also continue supporting the game.

Phandu 7 years ago
H1Z1 another scam game. Used to be F2P now they splitting it in 2 different games and they wont be F2P

Razer 7 years ago
With the exception of some of the indie games that use it correctly, Early Access is a very abusive system. Worse, Valve almost never takes any responsibility for the scams going on. Once you're past the refund point, you're screwed when things go south.

we 7 years ago
Early Access is like a paying beta tester. In the past a company had to pay someone to test his game. Then it went to public testing and now the customer pays the company to be a tester. Other people actually get paid for doing this as a job but w/e. You are only a customer. Yes you pay them to report bugs and help them to fix their product. You pay them to do their job.

I really don't know how stupid you have to be to do that.

If it works then they sell the finished product to other people and if it doesn't turn out as a good game they are gone with your money before you can blink. Oh well thanks to darwin we have many people who like to pay for doing the work of a beta tester. Thanks to them. Without them we would have to see many failgames and have more bugs in games. Without them we would also waste our time with bugs, crashes and other problems like they do. Good that we have so many limited people.

REPLY 7 years ago
: Kickstart
: Paid beta
: Early Access
: Founders/ Premium/ Gold packs
: Sorry we spent all the money on prostitutes. Game shut down.
: Change company name
: Repeat

Gahen 7 years ago
Some developers can actually use Early Access right and use it to make great games. The system allows developers to create quality games without huge funds at the start and with just a few people. Huge studios employ tens or sometimes more than a hundred people to get a game out and working, but that's not a thing common people can afford.
For example in the case of Space/Medieval Engineers or 7Days to Die, there are only a few people working on the game: they expand the games at a very slow speed, but continuously. Updates are frequent and bring large new content into the game, however, it is not clear, when will the games be labeled as complete.
While games developed by large studios are similar to movies: large previous investment, then a huge immediate profit, Early Access games work in a complete different way. Early Access allows small developer teams to make a living through the years they complete their games.

Or at least that was the objective of Early Access, when it was created... Similarly to fundraisings, Early Access too can be used to cheat people into throwing money away. When picking up an Early Access game, people must be very careful, since there is no guarantee, that the game will ever be finished because of various reasons. It is advisable to only invest in Early Access games if they have already been running for a while with constant development.

And to the problematic Early Access games: if large companies turn to Early Access, it is almost a guaranteed rip-off. When such thing happens, they test how much money the game can get in, and if it doesn't hit a certain level, things won't be too bright for those, who already bought the game. Even if the game will be finished, it won't reach the level of an independently developed full product.
And for last, the payd Early Access of Free to Play games: only larger companies can afford to keep a Free to Play game working, since renting servers are insanely expensive, not to mention buying them. If the game is not a for fun project, which was then made a short Singleplayer free game, then small developers are out when talking about Free to Play PC games. And no matter, what people want to believe, the basic philosophy of Free to Play games is the following: "One has to charge money for everything he can, unless it makes people leave the game." That's how they can keep working, nothing is wrong about it, just the people who buy everything instead of enjoying the game.
The Early Access in Free to Play games is just an opportunity for earning money, because the developers can afford it. Why select random players for alpha and beta testing, when they buy themselves into the tests? It takes long even for large companies to create a complete game, and with proper advertising, the anticipation is overwhealming even at the start of the Closed Beta test. Of course everyone wants to be a tester. Why let them in for free, if you can charge money for it and still getting enough people for the tests to work out properly.

The problem is not with Early Access, it is extremely beneficial for the purpose it was originally intended. The problem is with the people falling for every deceiving Early Access slogans, while most of the time it is obvious that they are rip-offs.

View 1 reply
Dioxety 7 years ago
Rust is Amazing. The reason it's still in Early Access is because they remade the entire game from scratch on the new Unity Engine. The game has an update every week (As well as a long devblog) and there developers are great.

But, DayZ for example. Complete crash grab. Developers are non existent and players were screwed over.

View 1 reply
Sian 7 years ago
(Note):There are different ways that the developer can make big money off.
A List of Scam
1. Early Access Test - (Forever in testing stage)
2. Limitations Progress - ( PVE limit Content)
3. Cash shop - ( Broken item can make the game Pay to win or Pay to Power)
4. Poor Design - ( Fake Review mostly)

View 1 reply
rickshaw 7 years ago
Early Access or founders kick starters etc they are the same, they just want money.
Its not the answer.
The answer is make the game.
Stop pleading, misleading, make it finish and sell it.
This Fad new found greed is a delve for all devs now! They see is way to get money TWICE!
once freely through a never ending saga of relentless next month this next month that month and a years and years later, with the still this's & that's! There's no progress as they can't progress as they have caused a problem, being, they have taken money freely, and not delivered on anything they first stated. This is a major crime.
We need to go back to the normal ways of making games not pleading and delivery or prolonging.
STAR CITIZEN is in such a rut it it has gone way off the tracks, it can not deliver at all, it will end up in a court room. Its doomed! by greed & plead, because of greed and not stopping always wanting more money.
With that there's no drama's & no forever & ever preachers.
End of story.

Todoran 7 years ago
Just scams ....

Cloak 7 years ago
No "Early Access" does not make a game better. You cannot make change to any of these games as a individual unless you get the attention of the community to back you up. Which in most cases is almost never! Because the only ones left playing "Early Access" games are the ones that were so hyped about it in the first place and are so blind they could remove "Early Access" tag and call it a finished game and they would still say the game is the best game in the universe. So like the title says, it's all about money but its also about ripping people off. And until somebody takes a serious stand against "Early Access" nobody can do anything about losing their money.

"When will these games release?

Its up to the developer to determine when they are ready to 'release'. Some developers have a concrete deadline in mind, while others will get a better sense as the development of the game progresses. You should be aware that some teams will be unable to 'finish' their game. So you should only buy an Early Access game if you are excited about playing it in its current state."

Yea buying these games with this kinda cover seems like a good idea right? They could just collect your money, walk away, and repeat. This is fraud but it's OK because it's under Steams policy and they warned you. So it's OK.

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