Sony is thinking about adding an Early Access option – similar to Steam – to its platforms.
This sudden interest into the world of Early Access was sparked by the successful Dust 514 paid beta on the PS3 back in 2012. SCEA’s vice president of developer relations, Adam Boyes, told Gamasutra at E3 that Early Access is “one of the massive conversations we have internally. At what point does a game meet standards of release? We still at some point ensure that we’re being mindful of the consumer. We don’t want somebody to stumble across that title and expect a full product, and have a negative experience.”
It’s refreshing to hear that Boyes is worried about releasing unfinished or unplayable products, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t still intrigued about an alternative way of helping out up-and-coming developers. “I want to help bootstrap people, to help them out,” he continued, “like supporting the underdog for a sports team.”
He then went on to say that there are many different types of gamers and many of them have no problem playing unfinished games, especially if they are made available at a lower price – as most Early Access titles tend to be.
“There are different types of people. There are people who always back games, enjoy Kickstarters, try things that they know aren’t finished but are willing to help make better, I remember playing Rust and laughing hysterically. And there were some things that weren’t finished, but I had a ton of fun.”
Early Access has definitely been successful on PC –The Forest became the top-selling game on Steam upon going into Early Access, even though it is still in the alpha stage of development. The hard part for Sony is deciding when games should be allowed on the marketplace. When they’re fun? When the developer is comfortable with the videogame? when the developers are ready to attain a potentially disastrous Metacritic score? Or when a game needs feedback from its players as part of its creation process?
“We’re working through that right now,” said Boyes. “We’re figuring out what’s okay. We obviously have our tech requirement checklist that people have to adhere to. So we’re internally discussing, ‘what does that list look like this? What are the caveats?’ Stuff like this. So it’s still a project that a lot of minds are considering. No details yet, but it’s something on the top of my mind every day.”
Perhaps Sony jumping on the Early Access bandwagon is a good thing, or perhaps – like many others – you think that Early Access shouldn’t exist and that videogames should only be released when fully developed. Either way, Early Access seems like it’s here to stay, cheered on by the success of unfinished videogames such as The Forest, Dayz, Rust, Kerbal Space Progam and The Stomping Land. It’s also curious that these comments have made their way out into the open at the same time as this week’s news has seen Microsoft’s off-again-on-again ID@Xbox scheme hitting headlines.