Pre-loading on Steam has given gamers everywhere the chance to play a game the moment its released. Now Steam is taking that idea a step further - allowing gamers to play a game while it's still in development.
Steam Early Access gives players a chance to play PC games before they're officially released so players can give critical feedback to developers during the development of the title. Here's how it's going to work:
The goal of Early Access is to provide gamers with the chance to "go behind the scenes" and experience the development cycle firsthand and, more importantly, have a chance to interact with the developers by providing them feedback while the title is still being created.
To support the interaction between Early Access players and developers, Steam offers easy and automatic updating of games, letting developers iterate quickly to respond directly to bug reports and feedback from customers. And, like all Steam games, Early Access players will be able to interact with other players, making it easy to create and share screenshots, tips, and in-depth guides.
In essence, Early Access will have players buying into an alpha or beta build of a game to gain early access while helping the developers find bugs and work out balance issues before the game officially launches. This was a model employed most famously by Mojang for Minecraft as the game was available for purchase during its alpha phase, and players helped shape the game into what it is today.
To kick off Early Access, Steam will be making a number of games available as part of the new program starting today:
The one thing these games all have in common is that they come from small indie studios. It will be interesting to see if any major studios take advantage of the program as it could provide them with a form of QA testing where participants pay to beta test products. That being said, the democratization of game development is a slippery slope, and some games are better off sticking to their original vision.
Either way, Steam Early Access is another interesting experiment from Valve and it will be fascinating to watch what happens to the games that take part in the program.[h/t: Kotaku]