SEESAW OF RISK
At its inception, Early Access carried just nine titles. By year’s end, it was home to over 100 new releases. In 2014 alone, more than 255 Early Access games were released. And as of this writing, half of Steam’s biggest-selling games that sold more than a million copies per title are in Early Access, of which only about 25 percent of the titles have been released as full, completed games. But statistics alone do not reveal the whole picture. For instance, a game’s labeling as ‘beta’ or ‘final release’ does not necessarily indicate its quality or success; consider the Minecraft beta (a resounding success) or the ‘1.0’ release of StarForge (a colossal failure) from Early Access. Such labels are arbitrarily given by developers, sometimes even with no rhyme or reason, and vice versa. Thus, the success of Early Access should not be measured by the ratio of releases to pre-releases; instead, the program’s risks and rewards warrant evaluation from both the developer’s and consumer’s perspectives.
Anthony Lam is an avid collector and investor of Early Access titles. An Editor-in-Chief for a regional magazine by day, his gaming resume dates back to the early 90’s with the NES, SNES, and the family 486 Windows 3.1 PC. He currently owns north of 1,000 titles across Steam, Origin, and Uplay.