As we waltz into 2015, it seems that 2014 is shaping up to be known as the year of Early Access when everything is all said and done. Early Access is something indie game developers started doing to make money off their video games while still working on the game. When it first started, there wasn’t much said about it. Just like anything else in the world, the more popular it became with game developers, the more criticism it started to receive and not just by the gaming public, but by the gaming journalists as well. However, when you look at it, how is it any different than when games come out on time “finished”?
I own a handful of Early Access games and for the most part, all of them work completely fine and feel like they offer a fun and fulfilling experience. So yeah, maybe I’m looking at this through some rose tinted glasses, but that doesn’t change anything for me. I understand there are games out that are Early Access that are completely busted. However, there are games that came out on time that were “finished” projects that were also completely busted, broken and downright unplayable. The most notable one, as of recently, has to be Battlefield 4. That game came out last year and apparently is still unplayable for many people. Or how about the javelin glitch that was in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer? It got to a point in that game when Microsoft started banning people for doing it and that was a finished game.
People also say that say Early Access games aren’t finished and there is a chance that they will never become finished. Yes, that is a possibility, but at least they’re not taking your money in the form of a subscription, which only ends when the game is complete. People are purchasing MMOs and paying monthly for them, while the developers continuously work on them. Although, the free-to-play model has become more popular in that genre. There are games out like Towns that the developers have not finished and will no longer work on, even though more than 200,000 people bought it. I recently bought Fallout 3 on PC and because I have Windows 7, it’s busted and unplayable without some unofficial work-around, but I already went on a whole rant about that. My point is, Fallout 3 is unplayable because Bethesda refuses to make a patch for it to work on Windows 7. So again, I don’t see how the chance that an Early Access game never gets finished isn’t in the same boat as some games that are released “finished” or became unplayable months or even years later.
Kickstarter even became huge in the video game world when Double Fine was able to rack up over $3 million from fans for a game to be made when they were only trying to reach $300,000. At the time, no one was batting an eye at game developers using Kickstarter to get funding for their games and those games weren’t even in development yet. However, yes, gamers have started questioning Kickstarter now as games they have backed still haven’t been released. Of course, a good amount of that is due to the time it takes to make video games and people want what they bought right now. Yet Early Access gets questioned left and right for games being unfinished and God forbid, not fun to play. My favorite complaint of them all is when people say they should get their money back for Early Access games because “it wasn’t fun to play.” The nerve of gamers, I tell ya.
If only I had a nickel for every game I’ve ever bought that simply wasn’t fun, let’s just say I’d be a lot richer. How often do we buy games that we are so excited for and they end up not being good in one way or another? Remember how everyone was so excited for Assassin’s Creed and after it came out it got praised, until we got more than two hours in and realized it was a repetitive mess? Or how about Resident Evil 6 and how amped gamers were for it? Then they bought it and it was even more of an action movie than Resident Evil 5 (which I actually liked). Batman: Arkham Origins is another game that gamers got excited for and ended up hating because it was too much like its predecessors. Games are released on time and finished constantly and we end up hating them. I don’t see people storming Square Enix and demanding their money back for Final Fantasy XIII. So why are we expecting our money back from Early Access games? Heck, with Early Access you are more likely for the developer to make the game better, more fun and an all-around great experience down the road as they work on it. Whereas, finished games are just that, finished with no one going to work on improving them outside of patches to make them run better.
Yeah, maybe I haven’t been burned by Early Access games, but that’s because I do research on a game before buying it. It’s strange in this day and age with the popularity of watching other people play video games, people still stick to opinions on a game, such as in reviews. Sure I still read reviews, listen to podcasts and see what others are saying about games, but I also watch videos for the games I am interested in playing and buying. Even more so with games that are Early Access. Games like Prison Architect, Door Kickers and Don’t Starve are a few games that I bought in Early Access and all worked perfectly fine the whole time. They are also three games that the day I bought them, I felt they were good enough for sell outright as finished games (Don’t Starve is no longer Early Access). However, the developers are constantly adding new things to them and making them more fun all the time.
Maybe I’m just seeing the glass half full in an industry full of people nitpicking everything and always wanting something for nothing, but Early Access is perfectly fine and in no way a rip off. It’s not at all ruining PC gaming. If anything it is helping PC gaming by allowing independent developers continue to work on their games. I’m happier purchasing games like aforementioned Prison Architect unfinished and enjoy myself building maximum prisons rather than hearing about the game, seeing it and then later learning that I will never get to play it because the developer went under in the process of making the game. And yes, I know bigger publishers like Sony and EA have been looking into Early Access. I don’t really like the idea of companies that can afford games using this as a way to make games when they can obviously afford it, but it comes with the territory. Big companies want to save money, while making product all the time and with Early Access being popular, bigger companies will start taking notice. Look at this way; it’s how you know you’ve arrived. Early Access, you have arrived and so far are owning 2014.