It seems like we are so far removed from the era of video games being released as complete packages in themselves. I can remember growing up during an age of gaming when there was no such thing as Downloadable Content (DLC), patches, betas, alphas or early access. The games simply went on sale, you purchased it from the store, then brought it home and played it. There was no waiting for a Day One patch to download, no having to install a game from your disc to the hard drive and definitely no having to wait for months while paying extra money along the way for the developer’s version of the “complete” game. Those were such simpler times.
So let’s talk early access. It is a concept where a game is released to the public to purchase but the base game itself has not yet been completed. When I mention “base game,” I am talking about a game that is complete on its own without the inclusion of DLC. Early access is basically the developers giving the consumer the chance to play the game as it is still being developed. In many cases, the consumers are also provided a forum to give their feedback on their experience. This is common on PC gaming clients such as Steam, where you purchase the early access version of the game (typically much cheaper than a normal new game price) and then can post your thoughts through a game review or the game’s discussion forum. It’s a cool way for gamers to feel like they are more directly involved in shaping how a game will eventually turn out for its actual 1.0 release version.
One thing for gamers to keep in mind when purchasing early access is that at best it is a good faith investment into an incomplete game. I’ve read posts on so many occasions of gamers who felt they were ripped off or taken advantage of because the game never turned out the way they had hoped or the developers at some point abandoned the project and left the game as is. What consumers must realize when dabbling into early access is that it is a risk. There could be a chance that the developers may stop updating the game after a while. The same principle applies to consumers who invest into online only games where the servers can be dropped at any time. My advice to all of you considering early access games is that if you do make the purchase, consider it more like a donation in support of the developers rather than treating it like a regular game purchase.
Personally, I like my games to be complete when I purchase them. Exceptions are far and few in between. Buying a game and then having to wait years for the complete vision of a game to be realized while being nickled and dimed the whole way is not my cup of tea. Remember, I come from a time when you spent $50 or $60 and you received a complete game that you went home to play. There were no microtransactions and no DLC.
Fortnite, Fire Pro Wrestling World, Ravenfield, Hades, Risk of Rain 2, Black Day and The Last Epoch have all been exceptions to the ‘early access’ rule for me. The main reason? When I purchased the early access version of these games, I was pleased enough with the amount of content at the stage that I made the purchase. So if there were no more updates and the game was left as is, I was still going to be satisfied with my purchase. Fire Pro Wrestling World and Risk of Rain 2 are completely out of the early access stage. Take a look at some of the Steam reviews of these games and consider the amount of hours some of the players logged in these games.
Here is a bit of advice to keep in mind. Do your homework and check to see how often the early access game has already been updated, the rate that the developers provide information regarding future updates, if there is a roadmap and what their participation is with consumers on the discussion boards. These all are good indicators to use in order to make an educated guess as to whether the game will eventually graduate from early access.
Lastly, if you invest in early access, be sure it is something that you really want to play. Because of the popularity of Fortnite, I owed it to myself to give it a try and found the game to be enjoyable. Fire Pro Wrestling World is now fully complete but even in its early access stages, it provided a sandbox of video game wrestling like no other. I was immediately drawn to Ravenfield because of its similarity to the old school Battlefield games like Battlefield 2, its graphical style and also mod friendliness. Hades just looked interesting from the start, it was based on Greek mythology and I liked how each run was different because of the procedural generated dungeon aspect of the game. The Last Epoch contains time travel and plays a lot like Diablo and Path of Exile. Risk of Rain 2 is a challenging 3D shooter that is a lot of fun and full of things to try. Finally, Black Day is a tactical shooter that gives you many sandbox options to customize your game that other games in the genre don’t. So you can see I literally wanted to play all of these games and purchasing them was not by blind choice but deliberate in knowing I would enjoy them.
Just remember these considerations when looking into early access titles. Yes, more than likely the price of the game will be lower if you purchase it during the early access stage. But the more important factor than cost should be if you truly want to play that game in the first place. There is nothing wrong with waiting until the game receives its full release to then decide if you want to play it. At least at that point you’ll be deciding on a completed version.