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Steam Early Access Rules Updated to Protect Consumers From Never-Ending Betas

Steam Early Access

Riddle me this, dear reader: would YOU buy an unfinished game, fully aware that it may never reach completion? I should hope not, but alas, Steam’s Early Access tells a different story: games in alpha / beta stage are selling like hotcakes, and most of them could easily remain forever incomplete. Fortunately for consumers, Valve decided to recently overhaul the rule set, clarifying certain things while adding a bunch of ‘restrictions’, and not a moment too soon either.

Seeing how more than a few games have been on Early Access for the longest time, with very few actually having ditched that label so far, hopefully these changes will end up proving beneficial to consumers interested in making the pre-launch leap. Chances are it won’t though, but hey – at least Valve is trying to tighten things up, and every last change / addition does make sense.

For starters, developers may no longer charge more for a title in Early Access on Steam than on, say, Desura or the Humble Store. This is a good thing, as I have a feeling many would rather buy directly [from Steam], than even consider browsing another store for potentially cheaper Steam keys. But perhaps more importantly, if one is to sell a title via. Early Access, it has to be pitched as is, instead of ‘this is what we’re planning on adding down the road’. Asking fans to spend money on something that’s not guaranteed is a bad idea for many reasons, including the fact that there are no certainties when it comes to game development. Being realistic instead of trying to cash in on false hope is generally the better option, for all parties involved.

On top of the updated rules, there are also some… guidelines. Needless to say, these are a tad less specific, and – as always – they’re just that: guidelines, aka. recommendations. With that in mind, I did find one of them to be particularly interesting, which is that one should not launch in Early Access before the project has moved beyond tech demo stage of development (hint: Greenlight Concepts).

Charging for an unfinished game is one thing, but if there’s hardly any gameplay, you may want to put some more time into it first. Especially in terms of how incredibly important initial impressions are, beta or not. People are incredibly quick to judge when it comes to video games, after all, and Early Access titles aren’t excluded from Steam’s user reviews. Just a quick FYI there.

Negativity and issues surrounding this particular aspect of the Steam store aside, there are certain positives to accessing a game while it’s still being worked on, like getting a proper glimpse at what has been, instead of simply waiting for what will eventually be. More often than not, the overall experience changes drastically between the early stages and that fabled version 1.0, after all, and the journey can be quite interesting.

Just keep in mind that it’ll also be a buggy and incomplete journey with features missing, and unfortunately, there’s no guarantee of completion. At all. Wish there was, although Valve likely omitted such a rule due to the aforementioned uncertainty of game development. Annoying for sure, but that’s just the way it is. Because of this, I’d recommend thinking twice before purchasing an unfinished game, no matter the price tag or promises made by its creator.

(Source: Giant Bomb)