Steam 'Early Access' lets you buy unfinished games

With games continuously evolving after release, gamers have become accustomed to frequent title updates and patches. But, what if you could see a game evolve before it's ever officially "released"? That's what Steam plans on offering through its new "Early Access" library of games.

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With games continuously evolving after release, gamers have become accustomed to frequent title updates and patches. But, what if you could see a game evolve before it's ever officially "released"? That's what Steam plans on offering through its new "Early Access" library of games.

Through the new initiative, you'll be able to buy beta versions of games through Steam. Because the games are incomplete, you'll have the privilege of not only playing the games early, but you'll also "help test and report bugs." You may even have to pay extra to get said right.

Valve is spinning the effort as a way to players to offer feedback as games "grow and evolve with the involvement of customers and the community," adding "this is the way games should be made."

Kickstarter has popularized the notion of pre-purchasing a game that may be nothing more than an idea. "Early Access" on Steam, at the very least, gives players a chance to pay for something far more substantial. By marking games as in-development, Valve can avoid a repeat of The War Z--a game that was "released" on Steam without many of the features it would eventually sport. The confusion caused the title to get pulled, with executive producer Sergey Titov saying "online games are [a] living breathing GAME SERVICE. This is not a boxed product that you buy one time. It's evolving product that will have more and more features and content coming it."

Some of the games participating in Steam's "Early Access" program include Arma 3 ($33, pictured above), StarForge ($20), and 1... 2... 3... KICK IT! Drop That Beat Like an Ugly Baby ($10).

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From The Chatty

  • reply
    March 20, 2013 12:15 PM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, Steam 'Early Access' lets you buy unfinished games.

    With games continuously evolving after release, gamers have become accustomed to frequent title updates and patches. But, what if you could see a game evolve before it's ever officially "released"? That's what Steam plans on offering through its new "Early Access" library of games.

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      March 20, 2013 12:17 PM

      This... seems really odd.

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        March 20, 2013 12:19 PM

        the main reason i like kickstarter is that i get early access to games - this is brilliant.

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          March 20, 2013 12:23 PM

          I don't know, I can count the number of positive experiences I've had with alpha or even beta versions of games on one hand. Playing an unfinished version of the game almost inevitably leads to disappointment.

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            March 20, 2013 1:15 PM

            So don't play them. Some people like early access to games. Some people like when they have the chance to provide feedback throughout alpha/beta testing. Some people would rather just play the normal game.

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        March 20, 2013 12:21 PM

        Basically a way for games like MWO to get into Steam.

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        March 20, 2013 12:21 PM

        seems odd from a normal media perspective. for games it makes sense and has been done successfully many times, since it helps weed out huge ass technical probs and so forth

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        March 20, 2013 12:29 PM

        Makes sense for betas and stuff.

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      March 20, 2013 12:23 PM

      Anyone think this is because of the War Z fiasco?

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        March 20, 2013 12:48 PM

        I think it has more to do with games like Minecraft selling millions of copies before the official release. At this point, they don't really need Steam anymore, so this is more a move to tie them to Steam as early as possible.

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          March 20, 2013 12:53 PM

          yep, Steam doesn't want to lose the market of indies and kickstarter style development where $5-10 gets you early access to provide ongoing feedback and testing

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            March 20, 2013 1:11 PM

            This makes sense, I didn't think about it as a kickstarter-esque type of service.

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          March 20, 2013 1:31 PM

          I can see that working for other sandbox type games like Minecraft but for single player games with linear progression and arching stories? I don't see those selling millions of copies before release.
          That said I remember before Half Life 2 launched I would have paid some $$$ just to play the HL2 tech demo that was at the 2003 E3 show. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5qAl9lgyJE

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            March 20, 2013 3:02 PM

            I wonder how much Valve could get people to pay for HL-3 alpha code on this service.

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        March 20, 2013 5:08 PM

        I think the War Z is an outlier; it was sold as complete. This is more because of things like Towns and the new crop of games coming through Greenlight that aren't finished but want to keep in your face so you don't forget about them.

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      March 20, 2013 12:28 PM

      I prefer to avoid buying into alphas of games that may never end up really being "finished", but at least those games that want to release in that state should be properly labeled as such, now.

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      March 20, 2013 12:57 PM

      You know what this means? We'll never have to put up with the Kerbal Space Program update servers again! Hooray!

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      March 20, 2013 1:09 PM

      So... wait, this is just a new branding of something they've been doing for ages, right? I mean, I bought 123 KICK IT! from Steam back in early 2011, according to my receipts.

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      March 20, 2013 1:15 PM

      so i guess we will be seeing simcity up here shortly? lmao get #torched nerds

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      March 20, 2013 1:17 PM

      Guess that explains the "Early Access" in MWO's mined listing : http://steamdb.info/sub/26169/

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      March 20, 2013 1:26 PM

      damn, Steam is awesome. and yet another reason why EA/Origin and Uplay aren't as successful. great opportunity for indie devs and some of these titles are apparently really good

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      March 20, 2013 1:30 PM

      I am conflicted on this for a couple reasons such as the inevitable consumer confusion between the different releases and expectations that go with each. It is sometimes nice to play a game early and see progression and help work lose some of the major bugs. The problem I have with paying for beta access is the player is in essence is crowdsourcing something that these companies normally pay people do internally.

      Most betas that aren't closed or private are little more than early marketing or a timed demo. Certainly there are exceptions to this being minecraft and post launch betas but it mostly holds true for AAA games. I feel the price should reflect the unfinished state and not paying a premium to access content early.

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      March 20, 2013 1:34 PM

      Pretty cool idea but I'm somewhat afraid of it if it gets misused. I mean when does a company say something is "done".

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      March 20, 2013 1:36 PM

      Paying for Alpha's, I'm ok with this. Bought ArmA, it is a fraction of the game but also a fraction of the price.

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      March 20, 2013 1:46 PM

      Oh...boy?

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      March 20, 2013 1:49 PM

      Sounds like the current practice of offering beta access to those that prepurchase your game. I generally don't go for that, but I'm sure that some people appreciate having the option.

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      March 20, 2013 1:51 PM

      finally i can pay money for buggy software!!!!

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        March 20, 2013 2:00 PM

        Finally? Seems like many studio games aren't finished when they're "released" anyway.

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      March 20, 2013 2:28 PM

      This lets Steam pursue the Minecraft-like alpha funding model. Other platforms like Desura are already doing tihs. ArmA 3 is a a good first example of this in action on Steam; you can buy the full game for half the price while it is still in alpha. This is a great thing for indie developers, that's for sure.

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      March 20, 2013 4:06 PM

      Sim City coming to steam then?

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      March 20, 2013 4:07 PM

      Sim city for steam then?

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      March 20, 2013 4:23 PM

      as long as buying into these alpha and beta releases are sold at a discount and give you
      full access to the "full version" once released, I can see myself jumping in.

      I haven't bought the Arma3 alpha but I really want to

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      March 20, 2013 5:11 PM

      as long as the price paid includes the "final" product and not a seperate purchase... why not?

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      March 20, 2013 5:19 PM

      Obviously this doesn't work for some type of games. Could you imagine buying access to an RPG like The Witcher, in an Alpha stage? The plot might change drastically, and there could be some shattering bugs. I wouldn't want to play through a story driven game via early access.

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      March 21, 2013 8:49 AM

      I'm glad they did this, Introversion released alpha 8 of Prison Architect via steam yesterday and it's nice to just get automatic updates now for what will someday be a pretty fun little game.

      I still like to build prisons even in alpha, but the actual gameplay is somewhat lacking at this point.

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      March 22, 2013 5:51 PM

      Desura had been doing this for quite a while.