Ever since Mojang used alpha funding to complete the development of Minecraft and turn into a multi-billion dollar company, the alpha funding business model has been a popular way for indie developers to do business. After Minecraft did it, we saw the rise of Early Access on Steam and Game Preview that launched on Xbox last year.
Now, the other big name in digital PC retail is launching their own version of alpha funding / Early Access. GOG announced that they were launching Games In Development to bring pre-release games to its customers.
Have you heard of H1Z1? It’s the latest MMO from the artists formerly known as Sony Online Entertianment (now called Daybreak Games). While SOE’s MMOs are all free-to-play, H1Z1 has launched as an Early Access title on Steam for $20. That price gets you immediate access to the game along with a few other perks. By all accounts, it’s quite obvious that it’s in the alpha stages of development.
The problem most people are having is that it’s a triple-A company that have gone the early access route. SOE has a few popular MMOs on offer already and with their financial backing from Sony and now Columbus Nova, it’s not like they should need the funding from Early Access sales to complete and polish the game.
But H1Z1 is the popular example of Early Access gone wrong. They aren’t the only example out there right now. Imagine my surprise a couple of weeks ago when I launched Battle.net and saw Heroes of the Storm waiting for me to click. The problem was that it wasn’t there to download. HOTS got a spot on my Battle.net launcher so I could spend $40 on the Founder’s Pack which includes immediate access to the game along with a few other perks.
So how is SOE and H1Z1 getting blasted for releasing an alpha of their game as early access while Blizzard is getting a pass for Heroes of the Storm?
It’s going to be a Valve news sort of week around here. I think that’s completely understandable with the Steam Fall Sale kicking off tomorrow. And today’s bit of news might be important to you when you see an Early Access game get a big featured discount.
Last week, Valve sent notice to developers that they’ve updated the policies and guidelines for Early Access games on the Steam Store. It’s unlikely to affect the current crop of Early Access games but might impact what you see launching in the future.