The Big Question: Do You Buy Early Access?

Early access games are a relatively new thing, but it seems like more and more developers are happy to let consumers play video games that are essentially a work in progress. Is this something you are happy with, or have you been avoiding early access games?

Personally I think this sort of thing is usually great for developers, not so great for consumers.

For developers it's a win-win. They get a return on what is essentially an unfinished product and they get free feedback on the game itself. They get to test for bugs, they get the kind of QA that money couldn't buy and they get to tell consumers they can't complain because the game is early access people — you knew what you were signing up for.

For consumers I suppose the joy is in getting on board a project early, being a part of that bourgeoning community. Games like DayZ and Minecraft are the very few, I think, in which this process has worked for both the developer and the consumer.

What are your thoughts?


    Generally no. Unless the studio in question has a proven track record of completing Early Access games I usually just wait for the final release.

    if they're on sale during steam sales & its something I wanted to get anyway, sure.

    but I generally wont play it until its final version is released.

    I said no... but then realised that I bought Minecraft when it was still in beta. So I guess that's a "yes, sometimes, but usually no". Where's that option, huh?

      Minecraft is a bit of an exception - we purchased it to play its current form at the time, not because of future content / updates.

        That seems like a bit of a nail-on-the-head point there. It works when it's a complete portion of a game that stands on its own but with the promise of more down the line, rather than than when it's a work-in-progress that promises to be something down the line.

        Also because of Minecraft's nature as a set of tools more so than a product in and of itself. It's like buying a painting kit on the promise that they'll ship you more colours later on, there's an obvious value proposition at the time which only stands to get better.

          Here's the thing - I was happy with what was offered at the time. It would have felt like sufficient value if there'd been no further updates. That's probably why Minecraft doesn't spring to mind when I think 'Early Access'.

    I generally don't, but that's mainly because of Steam avoidance so it doesn't come up much with me.

    I was totally happy to lay down the cash for Elite: Dangerous beta access though. I'd become excited by the idea and curious enough to start following it for a while, and it really sounded like they'd been delivering in spades so I was more than happy to jump on board and help support the project. Though the closing off of the Lifetime Expansion Pass helped me make the jump sooner too.

      I'm really on the fence buying that game. My wallet is out, but I'm having problems pressing the pay for button. I've read up about it a lot but can you give me some insight into what it's like playing it? And whether I should get it?

        It's hard to say, not really knowing what's holding you back exactly. It's a space game of ridiculous scale and already at a high level of polish, very easy to spend hours just being a space trucker hauling goods from one system to the next yet still have loads of fun. I guess the main question is whether to pay the extra for beta access now or wait til whatever time at the end of the year for the full release at the cheaper price. If you haven't seen already, they mentioned some of the new features coming to Beta 2 (at the end of this month) in their latest newsletter:

        They've also been drumming up some events in the game based around the 30th anniversary of Eranin's independence (read: the first Elite game), such as a trade embargo in Federation systems on Eranin's celebratory liquor. And basically militarising the userbase with half-price Cobras:

    Generally no, but I made an exception for Starbound since we already got ridiculous value out of Terraria - so they could never finish it and I wouldn't mind.

    A LOT more than I should. I've been burned a couple times. Pleasantly surprised other times.

    The most common result is playing something that's obviously not finished (but has potential) and leaving it alone until it comes out, only to discover when it comes out that I used up all my enthusiasm for it on the shithouse version.

    (Edit: I'll have to add 'early access games' to my list of things to avoid to make No Outrage October an easier thing to do.)

    Last edited 24/09/14 11:26 am

    I'm stingy. I don't like to buy games when they're fully released, why would I buy a half finished game from a developer who's desperate for cash in order to possibly think about finishing a game at some point in the distant future? order to possibly think about finishing a game at some point in the distant future then realizing they don't have to because they already have everyone's money and 'finishing the game' isn't going to bring them in terribly much more.

    My gaming time is limited and I don't want to spend time with an incomplete game. Chances are once I play it I'm not going to go back to it. Even games I have had on kickstarter that went early access I didn't play as it can make the first impression much worse.

    With a large collection of Steam games yet to be played thanks to sales/bundles I rarely play through a game twice, so I'd prefer to wait for a finished game than play an incomplete one.

    Last edited 24/09/14 11:34 am

    Have done so in the past, but decided I'd rather ignore the incomplete builds - you only get one chance at a first impression, after all, and I don't want my first impression sullied by the "not representative of final game" disclaimer.

    I think the key word is "buy". I'm all for helping a dev test out a game and find bugs and things, that's what free betas and alphas are for. Would I pay to get that chance? Maybe. If the game as it stands is worth paying for. It very rarely is though and a lot of devs are very unfocussed or overly optimistic about things so even if they have a strong product, the future of said product is always going to influence my decision.

      The beta is where you test for bugs though, the alpha is where you see features added and removed etc, the stage when key gameplay functionality is implemented, and assets are partially finished. Beta is where it's all implemented and you're now just troubleshooting it all, making sure it cohesively works together. Too many people are buying into Alphas expecting betas. Alpha and Beta builds are two entirely different concepts which I think is where a *lot* of people are getting confused when they purchase something. Games like DayZ state *super* clearly up front what you're buying with an alpha, some others don't obviously, which is dodgy.

    Yes, but carefully. I'm sometimes dubious about the ability of a small studio to create a polished game., 'we're too busy coding' is not an excuse for a lack of status updates.

    Nope. Never believed in early access. Not going to pay devs to help them fix their game. That is what alpha and beta is for.

    After DayZ and Spacebase, nope. Never again.

      Awh, I really like Spacebase. In fact, I think it was better in its earlier incarnations than when more complex systems got added and started breaking things.

        Have you not seen what they've done? Scrapped all planned features and 'next release is version 1.0 bye". It was supposed to be Dwarf Fortress in space. Complex was the plan.

        Last edited 24/09/14 5:46 pm

          Yeah, which would've been fine if every other action didn't result in your crew slowly asphyxiating while they run around in a blind panic at how they're dying from lack of air, instead of... y'know. Going into the airlock next to them and getting into a space-suit. Complex is great, but breaking things is bad. Also, there was some serious balance work needed.

            That was a bug that was supposed to be fixed, not an actual part of the game :\ Also, my crew never died that way.

    Bought Dayz and Rust, two most solid early access games I've bought. The progress is really starting to show now, with patch .47 - .49 really upping it's quality amazingly so. It gets a single 'mega patch' once a month, which is impressive in its own right. It usually contains a ton of stuff. Zombies are almost fixed, it's coming along quite nicely. The biggest criticisms I've seen levelled at it, seem to miss the point that when it was released, it was beyond bare bones, it wasn't even connected bones. That's where they started building the skeleton. *shrug* But to each their own.

    Rust, the experimental gets patches every day except sundays which is amazingly impressive. In the last three months it's come along leaps and bounds.

    Minecraft we bought originally for 5 bucks. It's been a great journey with it to where it is today.

    Kerbal Space Program has been brilliant seeing it grow, love it with every single byte of information it releases.

    There's some dodgy ones like the Stomping Lands I've been tricked by, but overall, I've researched first, then gotten into them. I'm happy with the low prices and the constant updates. I play DayZ and the others *extremely* regularly, so I definitely have gotten my value from them at this point.

    I don't outright buy a game anymore until it's at a stage where I would be comfortable paying the asking price for the game as it is in it's present state. I bought Towns on the promise of it improving in the future, and the dev dumped it because no one was buying his unfinished game anymore, and has explicitly stated plans to put all the future updates we paid for in Towns to be included in Towns 2, so he can charge for his game all over again.

    I would, however, buy 7 Days to Die or The Forest because based on the Let's Plays of those games I have seen in action I would be happy to play them in their current state. They're not finished and I'd like to see them finished, but they're not as utterly broken as Towns is and I could enjoy them for what they are. I haven't bought them yet because I frankly don't have the time for them at the moment and I lose nothing by waiting a little longer.

    I've also recently redeemed the Alpha sandbox-only mode of The Long Dark, a game I backed on Kickstarter last year that is finally in the playable stage. I don't consider this "buying early access" since what I really bought was the finished game, assuming it will be finished and released. If it doesn't deliver, that's my loss as a backer, but early access is a perk I can choose to use or not. I feel backing something on Kickstarter is an entirely different beast to the early access system.

      As a side note I bought Minecraft when it was in Beta for $15. It was an excellent nearly-complete game when I finally jumped on the bandwagon and has evolved into something even more incredible since then - a good example of what I am referring to when I talk about my personal early access policy. Even if Minecraft had not updated from the beta I bought into, it would still have been a game well worth my $15.

    Other than a handful of big name Kickstarters that became Early Access (e.g. Planetary Annihilation), I've bought a single Early Access title directly. That is Kerbal Space Program and it is GLORIOUS!

    Other than KSP I wouldn't touch most of them with a pole. KSP is kind of exceptional because it's more just the pure physics sim I wanted and the fledgling campaign mode is just icing on the cake. KSP is also extremely mod friendly, so the community around it is massive.

    If a game interests me or it's very reasonable priced i might consider picking the game up, so far the only games i have that are early access are Carmageddon: Reincarnation and I also have 7 Days to Die but a mate gifted me a copy.

    Usually no, but I occasionally make exceptions, like for Speedrunners, Intruder(Not on steam, but in alpha so sort of the same) and Mercenary Kings.


    I don't buy episodic games until they are complete (learned my lesson with TWD season 1).
    I don't buy early access on steam.
    I do buy pre-orders of limited or collectors eds that have granted me access to various betas.

      Did you not enjoy TWD season 1, did you simply not like waiting between episodes, or is it just the fact that by the time episode 5 came out it was on sale every other week for about firty cents?

        Nah the game was great. When I played it all in one go. Price/cash had nothing to do with it. It's about not getting a complete game. So now I just wait till it's all out or buy it on special and wait till it's all out to play it.

          Fair enough. I personally enjoy the suspense the episodic format offers, I probably wouldn't play it all at once even if I waited until the entire game was out.

    Bought into the Stomping Land Early Access. Pretty turned me off Early Access for life.

    I have never bought an early access game, and I don't think I ever will. I've been tempted by Prison Architect and Plague Inc, but I can wait.
    There are so many drawbacks to Early Access, from the perspective of both the consumer and the developer. Watch the videos by Extra Credits and TotalBiscuit.

    I often buy Early Access games and I have yet to be dissapointed. All you really need to do is put a an hour of research into the title before you buy in. The people that I see getting angry on the steam forums are people who have dove in blind and received a product they didn't expect. Of course there are some games to steer clear of and some that will never make it to completion but i'm happy supporting a developer through gaining access to a game that I will probably want at launch anyway.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now