Along with the paid alpha/beta and Early Access trend comes the dilemma of spacing out announcements and managing hype. But here’s an interesting question: After the initial Early Access promotional period, should we be giving it equal or greater coverage on the game’s actual release?
You would think a game’s release is more of a big deal.
But when it comes to Early Access games, it seems rare to hear anything at all beyond the initial “you can pay for it now” stage. Indie devs now have to be pros when it comes to masterfully feeding media information pieces at a time, to control the news cycle. But this only really works if interest is high enough. We can’t all be Tim Schafer, with outlets jumping at the chance to publish our latest quote.
The fact is, news outlets follow certain guidelines. When a game’s release comes around, usually a significant period after it was made available, it’s not “news” anymore.
It won’t benefit from launch benefits such as actual reviews — which writers and YouTube videographers might have been holding off to cover, only to later decide the ship has sailed. And it raises the question of whether a game might actually experience less sales because the hype train peaked too early. It’s a hard thing to prove, but we can definitely say the willingness to cover most games is lost after initial contact.
Perhaps it’s a tradeoff with the benefits of receiving funding before a game is finished. It’s a hard and long road to make a game without help right until the end, revealing it to the world in a controlled and polished state and making a big impact. Even harder, if you’re trying to do so on multiple platforms simultaneously, lest a 2048-like clone beat you to it.
Yet some games clearly deserve that extra coverage — specifically, those which are very different by the time they come out. The amount of changes to Rust is noteworthy, and it will be a vastly different game by the time it’s released. The same goes for my beloved Frozen Endzone, which listened to fan feedback and actually swapped its two modes, making what was at first a secondary game mode and making it the primary. It’s a better game for it.
It’s like how Team Fortress 2 now is a completely different game to when it was released. Not many major gaming outlets did an official “review” of the new Team Fortress 2. But shouldn’t they have? As we’ve noted here on Kotaku, the plethora of updates to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has strengthened it immensely. It deserved to be panned as an unimaginative Source clone when it came out, but now things are different. Doesn’t it deserve a 2nd look? Shouldn’t history reflect that it changed course, and in the end, served its fans quite well?