Time for Steam to clean up Early Access

Since there are so many titles up for sale during the Steam Summer Sale, it’s hard not to be exposed to a slew of new titles. However, it also exposes some serious flaws with Early Access. There are a lot of titles still in Early Access that haven’t been updated in a couple of years with hundreds (or more) negative reviews saying the game has been abandoned and not to waste your money. And it’s not just one or two titles, I’ve seen dozens.

I think Kickstarter and Steam Early Access are a fantastic platform to let Indie developers get their games into player hands without having to go through the corporate BS that kills off so many titles. Think of how many studios Microsoft and Electronic Arts have scuttled and you’ll get my point.

However, it’s becoming clear that Early Access is a dumping ground for get rich quick schemes and half-baked games where developers are hoping they’ll get enough money to finish their game. That’s not what Early Access is for.

Early Access should be for people to see a game in it’s early stages of development so they can offer input into the balancing of the game; things such as how hard a racing game should be, combat mechanics and AI difficulty. You can see this in games like Dirt Rally, Hand of Fate and Shroud of the Avatar.

But that’s not how it’s working out in a lot of cases. There are way too many developers showing off a prototype of their game and asking for money to actually make it happen. The line between Kickstarter and Early Access is blurring to an alarming extent. We shouldn’t be putting up with that. Steam needs to scrape these games off and start auditing Early Access. For example, if you don’t provide a significant code update every 3 months, you’re done in Early Access and your game is yanked from the store. Additionally, money should be held in escrow and paid out every 3 months once you provide a code update. That way everyone can easily get a refund if need be. It should also be that once you get a significant number of negative reviews, there is an audit to justify whether you continue in Early Access. You shouldn’t be allowed to continue racking up the hate without consequence.

To be blunt, look at games like Towns, Delver, Next Car Game, Victory Age of Racing, Timber and Stone, Fortune’s Tavern and Blockscape just to name a few. Right now, you can go on Steam and buy a copy. Some have been outright abandoned, like Towns, while others have been in Early Access for 2 years. This kind of crap needs to stop. This is a ripoff for players and a disservice to other Indie developers.

To be even more blunt, Victory Age of Racing was abandoned and the company behind it was able to start another Early Access game, RaceCraft, which has been under development for about a year. You have a track record of 100% failure, but you’re back on Early Access? No good. At the very least, since there is a way to Green Light games on Steam, there should be a way to Black Flag them. Give us the option to request a game be reviewed for it’s standards so we aren’t left with all this crap lingering in the store.

To be honest, I’ve had enough of Early Access and apart from Shroud of the Avatar and Besiege, I no longer support Early Access games. I encourage Steam to start auditing Early Access and cut off these leeches. I also encourage people to be very careful when buying an Early Access game. Make sure to read the reviews and check how often the updates are coming. Sure, there’s a refund policy these days, but that’s no excuse for due diligence.

Early Access is not a fundraising campaign. Go to Kickstarter for that.

By the way, if you take money for a product, yet never deliver it, and don’t give the money back, some might be harsh and call that stealing.

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