Thursday, January 8, 2015

Early Access should we buy into this?

I read this article early on Massively - Who benefits from MMO early access? and as I've been having this discussion with other gamers it got me to thinking.

Personally, I'm not against early access to help test a game as it's easy to get tunnel vision and "think" you know what a customer wants, not necessarily be giving them what they truly want/need.  But this pay to try a game that is a year plus still in development, does seem to be a bit of a money grab.

I did pay SOE for early access to Dragons Prophet back in 2013 (justification incoming), I did it as I had high hopes for this game, and the cost for early access included a substantial amount of Station Cash, which is useable in any SOE game, and I do play a few of those.  So it wasn't a totally loss if I didn't like it.  (I do still have intentions of getting past level 20 in DP maybe one day!)

I have also been gifted early access to a few other games - ArcheAge, Landmark and The Repopulation. 

Landmark, I didn't want and wouldn't have purchased it, but it was a gift. Nothing wrong with Landmark, just not my type of game (holding out for Next).   ArcheAge "seemed" awesome and wonderful in Alpha - who knew what XL/Trion was going to release was going to slide into the septic tank so quickly - best time with AA was alpha IMHO.  The Repopulation, for an independent game, is surprisingly fun.  Rough, but fun. Repop has alot of potential as they're hitting on many of the things missing from current MMOs.

Which ones have I purchased? I did purchase early access to Life is Feudal.  The game intrigues me on many levels, but I'm not 100% positive I'll play at launch.  But, I do like backing/contributing to indie game developers.

One that hasn't cost a penny, is Project Gorgon.  It's rough, but I've enjoyed my time there so far.  I would recommend this to old school gamers - it feels like something that was released 10-15 years ago.

That said, I don't like paying for early access to the big gun devs in general, (SoE, Blizzard, EA, etc.)  They have deep pockets already, and I don't believe they should be charging their customer base to test a game. There use to be a time that alpha testers were paid or a small group of dedicated gamers that gave constructive feedback.  Now if you have the price of a ticket you're in.

Is that really a good thing?  Yes, the devs get feedback, but are you getting it from the players that 'stick' in a game or just from the vocal minority, that view all games as five, ten or twenty days of entertainment and then trash it?

Games I've alpha tested, do ask questions during and after a gaming session (totally absent in ArcheAge), so you did feel like you were contributing feedback, whether the devs listened or not. Many of the current 'early access' do not do this.

Reverse side, if you want to view early access as the games release in a rough, not ready for prime time way, then go forth and enjoy.  Pathfinder is doing that.  Come play now (and pay a sub) for alpha/beta testing, but we're not going to wipe your progress - so it's truly "Early Access" versus alpha testing.  For their client base that may play for the next 5, 7 or 10 years, it is likely worthwhile.  I mean ALL games have updates, content changes, additions, hot fixes and patches - so NO game is complete at launch.  MMO's are ongoing works in progress.

The end of the day as long as WE the consumers are willing to open our wallets for early access, alpah access, etc., developers will keep heading down this path.

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