In this week’s podcast the team and I discussed the pros and cons of publishers releasing their games into early access. The reason for this podcast was Baldur’s Gate 3 early access release on Steam, which happened earlier this week. Baldur’s Gate 3 was one of the most anticipated releases in 2020, so anticipated, that when the game went live on Steam for purchase, so many players attempted to buy the game, that the Steam Market crashed briefly. Baldur’s Gate 3 is the follow up to Baldur’s Gate 2 which was released 20 years ago in 2000.
Pros Of Early Access
More and more publishers jump to releasing their games, or part of their games earlier and earlier.
In the case of Larian Studios, the publisher behind the Buldar’s Gate franchise, offered early access to the community. This early access contains roughly about 20 hours of gameplay, depending on your play style.
Other publishers, for example Activision, allow their community to experience the game during Alpha and Beta status for an additional purchase.
These are two major types of early game releases. The main difference here is that in the case of Call Of Duty Cold War, the progress that you make in the game when playing an alpha or beta does not carry over to when the game fully releases. In the case of Baldur’s Gate 3 with the early access only Act I was offered to the community, with Act II etc being rolled out later on, but there is no progress lost when the game will be fully released next year.
Releasing games early allows studios to generate cash flow and start earning money back on the game that they have developed. In the game industry a studio has to come up with the money for a game upfront and then hope they worked hard enough that the game will break even at least when fully released. Ideally the game will generate enough money so that profits can fund future games. Early access allows publishers to partially release the game and start earning. This is particularly beneficial for smaller studios that might run into funding problems later down the road.
Jaybur also added that early access allows for community feedback. While community feedback often meets deaf ears, it does play a big role in alpha and beta testing, more than it does in early access releases.
The Cons Of Early Access
While playing a game early might sound tempting, it often pays off to wait for the full game to be released.
Testing a game in alpha or beta is fundamentally different from an early access game. When purchasing an early access title, the gamer often expects this portion of the game to be already fully polished. Any bugs or glitches the gamer encounters, often lead to frustration.
While trying in alpha and beta, players are often actively searching for glitches and bugs to be fixed.
The other downside of early access is a dark one. It often forces content creators to spend more money to play the game early, and compete for the small space in the content world. Streamers and content creators who are able to get their hands on a game early, often experience a huge spike in exposure because “normal” gamers are actively searching for information and gameplay footage.
Now this might sound like a good investment into your content creation business to buy a game early and be the first one to play it, however reality looks much darker. Only a small portion of creators actually grow their channel significantly because of this investment.
Battle Passes, Loot Boxes & DLC
At the end of the podcast we discussed other ways publishers lure the community into paying more money. In 2020 every single game seems to have a Battle Pass and the publisher quickly figured out that $9,99 is the highest they can charge without players second guessing their decision. Even Fall Guys has a battle pass included, it’s free.
No matter your thoughts on Battle Passes, Loot Boxes or DLC if you think it is a great idea to add more content or simply a rip off, the industry will never go without. Unfortunately often publishers appear to simply throw a few skins into a Battle Pass and call it good, however; there are games, like Dota where the revenue of paid content funds their esports league and prize pool.
At the end of the day we will never go without paid extra content in any game and it is everyone’s own decision of whether or not to pay for extra skins and content, and it is upon the publishers ethics to make the paid content good or bad.
But what do you think about early access, alpha and beta releases as well as paid extra content? Let us know down in the comment section, or underneath my YouTube video!