To avoid a similar crisis, Early Access developers should be prudent about their level of commitment to development of their games, and the technological feasibility of their promised features. Once it is clear that certain features may not be implemented due to challenges in development, they should notify players with a candid explanation to manage expectations and mitigate reputation damage. If damage control is not handled properly, the consequences can be severe.
To sum up, Early Access is a superior alternative to digital pre-orders, where consumers sometimes wait for months after payment before getting a product whose quality is not guaranteed. At least when Early Access games underperform, players can offer feedback and participate in the iterative refinement process. And with Steam now offering full refunds within 14 days for games with no more than two hours played, what’s there to lose?