Important Pros & Cons of Early Access Games
Early Access has become a part of many game development cycles and has been gaining quite a bit of popularity in recent years. Some early access games feel like a finished game, and some feel like they were rushed out to create hype but the gameplay isn’t quite…there.
You see games that are available in their early access state everywhere and you might feel compelled to follow suit and do the same for the game you are making.
It’s tempting. I know…
But, it’s not always a good idea to release your game in its unfinished state. Let us talk about the pros and cons of early access.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of Early Access so you can decide for yourself if it’s right for you.
Topics covered in this article:
- What is Early Access Game?
- What are the advantages of putting your game in Early Access?
- What are the disadvantages of putting your game in Early Access?
- 1. The development of your game might be delayed and slow down a lot
- 2. You’ll receive a lot of feedback/suggestions that might make your game worse
- 3. Your development progress will be shown to everyone
- 4. You’ll need to spend a lot of time on support and bug-fixing
- 5. Early Access is not for those who can’t handle harsh criticism
- Games That Were Successful In Their Early Access Stage
What is Early Access Game?
Have you ever wanted to play a game before it’s officially released? With Early Access, players can get in on the action early and provide feedback to the developers! This is an incredible opportunity for us as developers to gain invaluable insight into our games by testing with real players, ensuring they are perfectly primed before launch! Plus, players get to be part of the development process and have a say in how the game is shaped which in turn can create a tight-knit community.
In short, it’s a way for a game to be released to the public in its early stage. For us game developers, there are benefits and also challenges that come with putting our games in an early access stage that we must be careful of.
What are the advantages of putting your game in Early Access?
If you’re a game developer, Early Access is a great way to get feedback from players and give them the chance to play your game ahead of time. Sounds great, right?
Here are 4 of the key advantages of putting your game into Early Access:
1. Get Feedback From Your Community
Getting feedback from your community is a great way to learn what works and what doesn’t. It can also provide you with valuable insights on how to improve your game. To get feedback outside of the review section in the marketplaces of your choice, you can organize focus groups, create surveys, and reach out on social media. This will help you understand how your community feels about your game and identify areas that need improvement.
It’s so important to get feedback from actual players of your game these days. That way, you’ll know what they think and if you should keep going in the same direction. If people don’t like something, you’ll know to change it. But if they do like something, you can use that as a basis for making it even better!
Early access is a great way to build a community around your game, too. You get feedback and suggestions that you can use to make the game better, and it also gives your players a voice in the decision-making process.
2. Get Feedback From The Experts
It’s a chance to get feedback from not just players, but from fellow game developers or expert game designers, too. And by this I mean you will reach a wider audience outside of the scope you’re in, and a lot of them can potentially be experts in game design. Sometimes, a little insight from professionals can improve your game by a mile.
3. Control The Release Date
If you’re considering releasing your game in Early Access, you need to make sure you know what you’re doing. It’s not as simple as just putting it out there and hoping to make money. But, the advantages can be great! You get to choose when to release your game based on various factors.
Responding to feedback, implementing new ideas, and fixing bugs all can affect your game’s release date. Putting your game in Early Access means you have all the information that makes it easier for you to determine when you should release your game and if you should cut down scopes early in the development phase.
4. Make Money With Early Access
While you’re still working on your game, Early Access is a great way to make some money. You can get support from players who are excited about your game, and even make money through pre-orders and additional content.
It’s especially good for small indie developers who don’t have a big budget to spend on the development to sustain themselves while their games are still not complete.
What are the disadvantages of putting your game in Early Access?
Launching your game in Early Access can be a great way to get player feedback, test out new content, and generate excitement amongst players. But keep in mind that there are some potential downsides to consider before you take the plunge. Make sure to think hard about the disadvantages of Early Access before you make your decision. The risks can sometimes outweigh the advantages in some cases.
1. The development of your game might be delayed and slow down a lot
When you decide to put your game out in early access, it’s important to be aware that it might take longer to finish, and you could end up making a lot of changes depending on how people react. It’s a risk, but if you’re willing to take it, make sure you do your best to make the best game possible. Don’t just release it because you’re tired of working on it – you don’t want to regret it later!
2. You’ll receive a lot of feedback/suggestions that might make your game worse
When it comes to feedback from players, you’ll hear some great ideas that will help make your game better. But you’ll also get some not-so-great suggestions. It’s important to listen to your players, but also remember to take their suggestions with a pinch of salt and don’t just blindly follow every suggestion you come across. Make sure to keep in mind the core vision for your game and use the feedback to help refine and improve it.
3. Your development progress will be shown to everyone
Early Access is a great way to get feedback from your players and make sure you’re on track with the game you’re building. But remember, you’re sharing your progress with everyone and showing them how you’re building your game. With your development roadmap visible to everyone, it can put a lot of pressure on you as a developer and it might make you feel like you HAVE to 100% stick to what you’ve originally planned to the point where it stresses you out to even think about changing it.
Of course, you can choose to not disclose your game’s development roadmap. But being transparent about the development process goes a long way.
It’s a big responsibility, so make sure you’re ready for it before you commit. It’s not for everyone, so don’t feel like you have to jump in if you’re not sure. Sometimes, the stress isn’t worth it.
4. You’ll need to spend a lot of time on support and bug-fixing
Putting your game out in an early access stage means, obviously, your game isn’t complete yet. This means there will be bugs and issues that can sometimes make your game less playable. Therefore, you’ll have to allocate a part of your development time to fixing issues.
This can potentially affect the roadmap you initially planned. You may have to stop working on a feature for a while to fix an urgent bug, or you may need to push back the release date due to unforeseen problems. It’s important to bear in mind that the success of your game depends on the players’ experience. If they find your game unplayable due to bugs and issues, they may not want to continue playing. Therefore, it is essential to dedicate a chunk of your time and resource to providing timely support and fixing issues promptly.
5. Early Access is not for those who can’t handle harsh criticism
I’m sure you’ve come across Early Access games on Steam that are so complete they feel as if they’re fully-finished games already. And then there are games in the Early Access stage that are so bad they don’t even feel like games.
Yes, games in Early Access come in all shapes and forms. Depending on when you decide to launch your game, player feedback can be REALLY harsh and that might discourage you.
I mean, it’s a given that games in Early Access are not fully-developed games, but some players can get a little heated and forget the fact that some of those games are still very early in the development phase which can lead to them saying many unpleasant things about them.
Games That Were Successful In Their Early Access Stage
ARMA 3 falls into this genre, continuing the legacy first started by the likes of Rainbow Six and Soldier of Fortune.
Aside from all those fast-paced run-and-gun shooters, one subgenre quickly falls into oblivion: the tactical shooter. As the term suggests, tactical shooters also involve slower-paced gameplay emphasizing clever maneuvers, strategic action, and gritty realism.
ARMA 3 was one of the first twelve games to enter the Early Access program. At this point, it was already more than 20 months in development. Another six months passed before the final version was released. The question that pops up is how successful ARMA 3 was. Within eight months of release, it surpassed a million copies sold milestone.
Looking back, it’s respectable how little time the game spent in Early Access.
Divinity: Original Sin
The story behind the development of Divinity: Original Sin is uplifting enough to fill any game developer’s heart with a healthy dose of hope. This RPG fantasy is the fifth in the series and presents as a prequel to the game that spawned the series in the first place, Divine Divinity.
Before its latest title, the Divinity series wasn’t top-rated, often overshadowed by opponents like Ultima, Baldur’s Gate, and Diablo. Not to consider it a bad series, because it wasn’t. It never achieved the critical mass needed to propel it to the forefront of gaming.
That is, until Divinity: Original Sin entered the scene. It began with a Kickstarter campaign in March 2013, raising over $1 million in funding. The original October 2013 release date was pushed back, and the game entered Early Access in January 2014. Another postponement later, and the game was finally released in June 2014.
The original Wasteland debuted in 1988. Wasteland 2 was released in 2014. Which hit RPG game has there ever been that took 26 years to produce a sequel? While the game’s spirit lived on in the form of the Fallout series, it wasn’t enough for the creator of Wasteland.
The game’s Kickstarter campaign launched in March 2012, raising over $600,000 in 24 hours and reaching the campaign goal of $900,000 within two days. And by the end of the campaign, Wasteland 2 had raised above $3 million in funding.
With funding secured, the development team worked on the project for more than 20 months before it reached Early Access in December 2013. It was officially released in September 2014 to rave reviews.
Considering Early Access for your game? It’s a great way to get feedback and build an audience before launch, but there are risks too.
Make sure to weigh the pros and cons before deciding if Early Access is the right choice. Ultimately, it’s totally up to you!