ACCESS DENIED: THE DANGERS OF PAID EARLY ACCESS
You get what you pay for
by Felipe Parada
Early access has always been a strange concept to me. The concept of paying for a game in the early stages of development while the developer is able to use those funds to continue work on the game never really sat well with me. If I'm going to pay for a game, I'm expecting to get a finished game. The bigger issue is if early access gaming really worth the risk?
Early access releases are pretty commonplace now and it's a great way for developers to get their games to anxious players who want to get in on the latest build. But, just like many game practices out there, direct developer-to-player feedback has begun to develop a dark side if its own. Now, in theory, early access gaming should be the best way for developers to use the cash to make the game better and eventually create their dream project. Sounds great.....on paper.
With early access getting bigger and bigger every year, developers are preferring to take this route over aligning themselves with a publisher and have the game enter development hell. What many games still don't know is that these games remain in early access long after the developers claim that the game is finished. This lack of communication with the player base can kill the momentum of these early access games that depend highly on player feedback.
There are many games out there that use a free to play formula without early access. If the game isn't advertised as early access then it can cause confusion among the community and you won't know what you're really buying. This is where the dark side currently comes into play. The early access aspect can be easily abused by developers.
Take Fortnite for example, for those who weren't paying attention the developers did mention that the game is currently in early access on PC and will be coming to early access on PS4. What confused the community was retailers like Amazon and Gamestop were selling Fortnite as a full retail game ($59.99). There was no mention of Early Access anywhere in the description. You could also participate by buying a Founders Pack for $39.99. These prices make it seem like a full retail game.
Then we have the popular Playerunknown's Battlegrounds that makes players know from the start that it is a Early Access game. You can access the game for $29.99 and receive constant feedback from the developer on the current state/future of the game. The game has a huge cult-like following and has even made it over to XBOX One. This would be a good example of how early access should be used for the gamers benefit. Unfortunately not every early access game can be Battlegrounds, trust me many are trying.
Truth of the matter is that it's frustrating for players to get any significant update when participating in these early access games. You're pretty much paying for a demo, plain and simple. It's great that you have the ability to communicate directly with the developers but sometimes that isn't enough. Make sure that you know from the start what you are getting yourself into. Just keep in mind that as in life, you get what you pay for.