From sudden cancellations to misleading advertising to a multitude of games that seem to be stuck in alpha for all eternity... the early access funding model has seen no small amount of controversy. But, does this mean legitimate developers with a great vision should stay away from it?
Much like anything else, success with early access depends on how you approach it. To that end, there have been many successful titles that have made it to full release, with Prison Architect being one of the most oft-cited examples.
Here are five benefits for developers wanting to make the most out of EA:
#1. Increase the Exposure of Your New Game
AAA titles have enormous development teams and the support of major publishers behind them. This means they also have all the resources necessary to market their game extensively without having to release it until it’s done. For indie developers and new studios, this is simply not an option.
Fortunately, early access gives you the opportunity to present your vision to the masses and get them actively involved at a fraction of the cost. Furthermore, by empowering your players, you increase your exposure and reduce the risk of financial failure.
#2. Earn Revenue Sooner
According to Ubisoft, the average development cost of a AAA title released for Xbox, PC and PlayStation weighs in at between $18.8 and $28.2 million.
With these figures being far beyond the funding capabilities of smaller developers, early access offers a much-needed opportunity to earn the revenue needed to continue developing their games. Combined with crowdfunding, it’s now possible for even solo developers to realize their projects, even if they have minimal funds to invest upfront.
#3. Gain Valuable Audience Insights
What makes a great video game? One might say a game that’s made by gamers for gamers. Early access empowers players by actively involving them in the development process... so much so that it becomes a community-driven project.
Is your game missing out on a great opportunity or failing to meet its full potential? Your players will let you know, presenting you with opportunities for improvement that you might not have noticed yourself. Building a solid relationship with your players makes for a highly successful early access release.
#4. Avoid Launch Day Worries
With some 5,000 titles being released annually on Steam alone, it’s not easy to be heard among all the noise. That’s why many launches barely make the headlines, even in dedicated gaming circles.
Early access, by contrast, lets you take a far more relaxed approach to launching your video game, building up an audience and raising awareness over time. When you’re ready for full release, you should already have enough attention to avoid many of the launch-day challenges that other studios often face.
#5. Test Your Game for Free
Instead of relying on armies of beta testers (as most AAA developers do), your actual players will be the ones giving you feedback on how to improve your game. Although you must have a playable title with a decent amount of content that’s free of game-breaking bugs, players who buy early access games generally expect to encounter a few issues.
To that end, early access players are effectively play-testers who can provide a constant stream of feedback regarding bugs and other issues. So long as you demonstrate that you’re actively involved in the development and improvement of the game, your players will be happy.