PROS

HWM (Malaysia) - - GAX -

The abil­ity to garner sales and grow a fan­base early in de­vel­op­ment, all while gath­er­ing feed­back from gamers, mit­i­gates the risks of re­leas­ing a full ver­sion that may be neg­a­tively re­ceived. This priv­i­lege was for­merly avail­able only to triple-A ti­tles via their ‘pre-or­der and play early’ scheme, but in­die de­vel­op­ers can now also take ad­van­tage of sim­i­lar op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Ad­mit­tedly, gamers tend to be an im­pa­tient bunch, pre­fer­ring to get their hands on cov­eted re­leases sooner rather than later. Early Ac­cess pro­vides ex­clu­sive ac­cess to games dur­ing their de­vel­op­ment stage, of­fer­ing that sense of in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion many fast-paced gamers de­sire. They may also have a say in the game’s di­rec­tion, pro­vid­ing cru­cial feed­back to the de­vel­oper(s) on hard-to-repli­cate bugs and game­play tweaks, and so in­creas­ing the chance of ob­tain­ing de­sired fea­tures. pay in ad­vance for ‘promised’ con­tent, sim­ply ‘pulling the plug’ may no longer be a sen­si­ble op­tion. When rep­u­ta­tion is at stake, aban­don­ing a pro­ject be­comes dan­ger­ous wa­ters to tread for any de­vel­oper, where even over­promis­ing or un­der-de­liv­er­ing may in some cases prove fa­tal in the Early Ac­cess arena. The Early Ac­cess ap­proach also re­duces spec­u­la­tion and hype lead­ing up to a game’s re­lease, which could re­duce news­wor­thi­ness and day-one sales come launch.

On the con­sumer side, un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions can of­ten lead to un­in­formed pur­chases. Many are prone to swal­low hook, line, and sinker the pre-re­leased trail­ers and screen­shots with­out even a glance at any neg­a­tive re­views – a recipe for buyer’s re­morse.

When mak­ing pur­chases, gamers should note that cer­tain ‘full re­leases’ may not have ev­ery fea­ture im­ple­mented. For ex­am­ple, StarForge went gold af­ter years of de­vel­op­ment with­out a bulk of its promised fea­tures – only to have thou­sands of cus­tomers later deem­ing it a beta at best. The de­vel­op­ers moved on to Reign of Kings, also in the Early Ac­cess pro­gram, lead­ing to dis­grun­tled fans pen­ning game re­views di­rected to the stu­dio it­self, warn­ing prospec­tive cus­tomers of its his­tory of un­der-de­liv­er­ing on prom­ises.

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