What are Early Access Games?
Early access games are works-in-progress. It’s when a game is made publicly available before the game has been finished.
Early access is a stage during the games development process, presented to players by the developers as a way of testing the game while being put behind a paywall. This gives the ‘participating’ players a preview of the game, whilst allowing the developers to ‘test’ for any glitches and issues that need to be fixed. The developers are then unaccountable for any problems that arise; that an otherwise finished game shouldn’t have.
Some argue whether the term ‘early access’ was or is even valid today. D’Anatasio (2018) argues “early access means nothing anymore, if it ever did mean something. In a world where games are constantly changing, and where even the most polishes big-budget AAA games receive a stream of regular patches, the concept is simply obsolete.”
For publishers, early access means they can start profiting from the game sooner as players are paying to play before ‘official release’. Walker (2014) supports this stating “the Early Access publishing model is a “win-win” for developers – you collect sales and grow your user base, all while developing the title and getting feedback from the consumers who are most passionate about your game”.
Case Study: PUBG
A great example of an early access game is PUBG (Player Unknown Battlegrounds).
PUBG is a “multiplayer battle royale game in which players drop onto an island and fight to be the last one left standing.” (Plant, 2018).
The game was in early access for around 18months. Big gaming publications rated the game with conflicting reviews, with its reviews on Steam being “mostly negative” (Grubb, 2017). Grubb also argues “Battlegrounds is unfinished, and bugs are common for such games. But you should still know about them before you spend your $30. PUBG is more likely to glitch than any other incomplete games”. PUBG was considered broke, had many glitches and the gameplay was, for lack of a better term, ‘clunky’. However, all this was deemed acceptable as the game was an “early access”.
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If you’re interested in an analytical perspective on our case study, click here to read part two on Harrison’s blog.
D’Anastasio, C., 2018, ‘Early Access Means Nothing Anymore’, Kotaku Australia, date accessed 25/10/19, https://www.kotaku.com.au/2018/10/early-access-means-nothing-anymore/
Plant, M., 2018, ‘What is PUBG?’, Hotspawn.com, date accessed 27/10/19, https://www.hotspawn.com/guides/what-is-pubg/
Grubb, J., 2017, ‘Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds Early Access Review – a seminal shooter’, date accessed 25/10/19, https://venturebeat.com/2017/09/15/playerunknowns-battlegrounds-early-access-review/
Walker, P., 2014, ‘Early Access popularity growing, but only 25% have released a full game’, GamesIndustry.biz, date accessed 27/10/19, https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2014-11-13-early-access-popularity-growing-but-only-25-percent-have-released-as-a-full-game
Mitew, M. & Moore, C., 2017, ‘Histories of the Internet Games and Play: Space, Technique and Modality’, UOW Library, date accessed 25/10/19, https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/1715506/mod_resource/content/1/Mitew%20%20Moore%202017%20Histories%20of%20Internet%20Games%20and%20Play.pdf
HCI Games Group, ‘Games as a Service – the model of Microtransactions’, Medium, date accessed 27/10/19, https://medium.com/@hcigamesgroup/games-as-a-service-the-model-of-microtransactions-1a0e1e847119