Steam Early Access, a program that was previously launched by the Valve Corporation on March 20, 2013 allows customers to have immediate access to the playable version of an unfinished game. In theory, the main intent of creating this program was for the developer to sell the early version of the game to their customers then get feedback or entail of the game’s performance from them after they have experienced the “rough beta” of the game in its current state. By doing so the developers are able to update and/or fix any problems that may occur in the game as they progress towards its full release. This hold strategy of Early Access Steaming has been an eye opener to larger publishers, such as Ubisoft, SOE, and Square Enix. This is all thanks to the major success of Early Access titles like Day Z, Rust, and Prison Architect. The success of these games, especially Day Z (generating over millions of dollars) has raised popularity of the Early Access publishing model to new heights.
Just last in February 2014, the release of Steam titles exploded with approximately 1,305 releases thus far. This was a major improvement compared to the previous year (2013), which had about 585 releases, (a 123% increase in releases).
So far, Steam Early Access has been very successful at generating money, but as far as releasing the full version of the game things haven’t been looking so good.
Over the last few years many game developments have been taking part in the Early Access system, but only a few have been able to make it to the full release of the game. In fact, it is said that only 25% of the games that used Early Access have actually released as full games. This is one of main issues with the Early Access program- When the customer purchase a game there is no guarantee that the game would ever reached its full released. Because of this, Valve had to make it clear to the customers that there was a low percent chance that most the games would reach their full release, and that they were buying the game at their own risk in order to prevent future problems due to unfairness and deception.
When it all comes down to it, the main purpose of creating this Stream Early Access program is more to make money than to improve the development of the game. Hardly any of the game reach their full released and to add on to that most of the games sold through Early Access are more expensive than the finished version.”The RPG genre is a particularly strong example of this with Early Access editions that average $24.24 compared to the full game versions at $19.87.” (Walker)
For the developers there is practically no down side to this method when it comes to making money, at least not for the larger developers- they collect money and grow their user base, while at the same time developing the title and getting feedback from the consumers who are really interested in the game. For the smaller developers, on the other hand, things haven’t been exactly working out very well. “Early Access in its current form seems to favor larger developers with the time and resources to drip-feed updates to an engaged community. Smaller developers can’t always deliver the level of attention, progress, and engagement that Steam customers expect.”
According to Mark Federman, “The medium is the message tells us that noticing change in our societal or cultural ground conditions indicates the presence of a new message, that is, the effects of a new medium. With this early warning, we can set out to characterize and identify the new medium before it becomes obvious to everyone – a process that often takes years or even decades. And if we discover that the new medium brings along effects that might be detrimental to our society or culture, we have the opportunity to influence the development and evolution of the new innovation before the effects becomes pervasive.” (Federman)
This quote relates to Steam Early Access because it is a new and extremely useful program that has to major influence on a lot of developments. It also gives us the opportunity to take advantage of the outcome of future developments.
Judging from where Steam Early Access is now, I would say that Steam Early Access is in for the long run. Although they have a bad reputation in the game industry for not reaching the full release of most games, it can be a major benefit for other corporations if used properly.