Early Access is a fairly new concept in which developers release an unfinished and in-development game under an “Early Access” moniker, this unfinished project is then sold, usually at a discount, to gamers who want to not only play the game early, but give feedback on the game early on in development so the developer can make any necessary features. So far the scheme has taken off on Steam with many of the top games on the platform being an Early Access title, so it comes as no surprise that developers for the PlayStation 4, and now Xbox One are asking for a similar Early Access programme.
So why would people want to pay for an incomplete game, around 10 years ago, that probably wouldn’t have made any sense. Your answer to that would be, Minecraft, the game started as an alpha that players could purchase and hop right into the game, in turn, the cash given for that early alpha, helps fund the development process so the game nears completion, and you, the gamer who purchased the early alpha, gets to experience the game’s evolution from an early alpha to a full release, and in Minecraft’s case, world domination.
It’s this feature, according to [email protected] boss Chris Charla, is what developers have been asking for. “Right now on Xbox One and Xbox 360, you can do betas. A lot of games do, and some games do private betas,” he told Develop recently.
“When we talk about early access, it typically means a game that you buy and it evolves over time to become 1.0, so you’re buying it before it’s 1.0 – Minecraft on PC is a perfect example. It’s something developers have been asking for, and we are listening really closely to developers, but I don’t have anything to announce on that right now.”
Now, this all might seem like a great idea, but it hasn’t always gone along smoothly, as some Early Access title’s developers have done a runner with your cash, or have just stopped with development all together and have failed to inform those splashing the cash on their game. This is a problem that Charla doesn’t want to happen on the Xbox One.
“It’s a really interesting issue with digital marketplaces, and it’s something our store and marketplace team think about all the time,” he said. “There’s a lot of heavy deep thinkers, experts, PhDs working on these problems at Xbox every day – not just for the Xbox store, but for Windows Store and Windows Phone. Our goal is to have a rational marketplace, where good games are visible and sell well.”