Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
October 31, 2014
arrowPress Releases
October 31, 2014
PR Newswire
View All





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


Steam updates Early Access FAQ to say games may never be finished
Steam updates Early Access FAQ to say games may never be finished
June 4, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

June 4, 2014 | By Christian Nutt
Comments
    17 comments
More: Console/PC, Indie, Production, Business/Marketing



Valve has updated its FAQ on Steam's Early Access games program to explicitly state that games may never be completed by their developers.

The response to the question "When will these games release?" now reads:

"Its [sic] up to the developer to determine when they are ready to 'release'. Some developers have a concrete deadline in mind, while others will get a better sense as the development of the game progresses. You should be aware that some teams will be unable to 'finish' their game. So you should only buy an Early Access game if you are excited about playing it in its current state."

The old answer did not include any verbiage about developers' potential inability to complete the game, or caution buyers that they should be buying games based on their "current state" rather than their final "release" version, VentureBeat reports.

VentureBeat asked Valve for comment, and spokesman Doug Lombardi told the site "The changes to the FAQ are intended to help set customer expectations of what may or may not happen over the course of development of an Early Access game."

Last month continuing development of Towns was officially abandoned by its developers after selling over 200,000 copies and raising $2 million, sparking controversy and questions around alpha-funded games.

UPDATE The original version of this story stated that Towns was an Early Access game. It is an alpha-funded game, but is not part of Steam's Early Access program. The error has been corrected.


Related Jobs

Next Games
Next Games — Helsinki, Finland
[10.31.14]

Senior Level Designer
Activision Publishing
Activision Publishing — Santa Monica, California, United States
[10.31.14]

Tools Programmer-Central Team
Vicarious Visions / Activision
Vicarious Visions / Activision — Albany, New York, United States
[10.31.14]

VFX Artist-Vicarious Visions
Magic Leap, Inc.
Magic Leap, Inc. — Wellington, New Zealand
[10.30.14]

Level Designer










Comments


Adam Bishop
profile image
Hiding that info on an FAQ page seems inadequate. Here's what the text says on a game's page in the store:

"This Early Access game may or may not change significantly over the course of development. If you are not excited to play this game in its current state, then you may want to wait until the game progresses further in development."

There's nothing there suggesting that a player might reasonably expect the game to never be completed or that Valve considers that acceptable. Indeed, that message still strongly gives the impression that the game will eventually be finished.

Ultimately I think they ought to enforce a policy that if you're selling an Early Access game, you're required to eventually finish it or offer refunds to unsatisfied players. Even the term "Early Access" implies that you're getting in on something that's eventually going to be finished.

Brian Ortiz
profile image
Regardless of any disclosure issues, at the end of the day Valve makes money from the selling of incomplete products. They make good games but they're turning into a pretty scumbag company on the Steam side of things.

Eric Finlay
profile image
Scumbag is pushing it, I'd say. The early access program can help game developers and get games into the world that wouldn't exist otherwise. It's a new business model and there are growing pains, that's (hopefully) all this is.

Brian Ortiz
profile image
There needs not be growing pains. Offer refunds. Problem solved. Released games can be refunded 24 hours after purchase, Early Access games can be refunded up to 6 months after purchase.

Colin Sullivan
profile image
I don't think refunds after 6 months is realistic. That would kill developer cash flow, Steam is a store, not an escrow account.

Perhaps Valve could step up and offer a refund on the 30% they took, but there is no way the developers using early access are going to sit on the money for 6 months on the off chance someone doesn't like their game.

Brian Ortiz
profile image
I think 6 months is very reasonable. Games can change significantly during development and it may become something I no longer like. 6 months should be plenty of time to finish your game before people start requesting refunds. If it's not then you put your game on Steam too soon.

Elijah Whitehouse
profile image
People wouldn't buy incomplete insurance or a half-finished food product, so why is it that only in the video game industry are developers and companies alike allowed to get away with making an unfinished product and make money off it?

Eric Finlay
profile image
It's the same as books (many editions differ only in fixing typos, clarifying ideas and improving the text). Consumers would rather have an imperfect version sooner than a perfect version potentially never. I don't understand what the problem is, if you don't want an incomplete game, don't buy an Early Access game.

Brian Ortiz
profile image
That's a terrible comparison. Books aren't sold half-finished. There's no rule that says Early Access games have to be in Beta.

Jonathan Bubier
profile image
You can't compare insurance and food to video games (though your comment on incomplete insurance is debatable, insurance companies will do anything to not hold up their end of the bargain). You are better comparing them to other forms of media / art. I guarantee if JJ Abraham offered some sort of early access to the new Star Wars where you got access to dailies, rough edits, and such, people would sign up in droves. Brandon Sanderson is selling an anthology in collaboration with other authors containing early drafts of their books. Granted this is after the fact, but it is still selling early, unfinished content. Now that I think of it, there are lots of examples of artists selling demos of music and development materials for any form of media.

There is a clear market for this, people are clearly buying Early Access games. Minecraft, one of the biggest things to happen in a long time was an Early Access game, just not on Steam. People are still Kickstarting games with promises for alpha and beta access. People still scramble to get into beta programs. People want to play games before they are finished, they want to watch them grow, watch them change, be apart of the evolution, provide input, find exploits. Minecraft is the perfect example of this. Valve is providing gamers and developers the ability to easily do this and I'm am grateful.

By labeling them as Early Access, Valve is already warning people these are unfinished products. If you don't feel comfortable with that, don't purchase it. You can wait until it finally comes out or fails and say I told you so. If people can't be bothered to do the tiniest bit of research about what they are buying, then I have no sympathy for them. Similar to Kickstarter, Valve shouldn't be held responsible for making sure these games are finished. That is not to say people can't organize legal action on their own. But again, they purchased something knowing full well it was not finished.

Finally, this idea just popped into my head as I'm writing this. I think Early Access games that do fail are even a good thing. Think of all of the countless games that go unfinished in the industry. Games that are just buried, that developers never get to talk about, all of that work forgotten. Granted most of these probably failed for a reason, but it would still be fascinating to see them. Early Access provides that opportunity, not for the ones that have already failed, but for the ones that will fail in the future.

Richard Martin
profile image
Actually, that's pretty much the point of Early Access. You're buying a game while it's in beta (or even alpha) hoping that it will eventually get completed.

If your game is out of beta, it's no longer Early Access. It's simply released.

Greg Scheel
profile image
Hmm, lessee here:

Microsoft Windows 95(a) thru 7/8
MacOS
MacOS X
iOS
Android

I could go on, but software is never finished, only released.

Ben Lippincott
profile image
Oh? People don't buy underripe fruit? People don't buy seeds and potted tomato plants? Also, insurance isn't a product, it's a protection from a supposed event that may or may not happen. Essentially making it a bet that you won't need it. While it's almost a certainty you'll need health insurance and very very likely you'll need car insurance, people still buy flood and tornado insurance.

People buy incomplete products constantly. People buy computers in pieces, they buy pieces of wood that could be a shelf, they buy raw lumber, and they buy in to webcomics that don't update on a particular schedule.

Jennis Kartens
profile image
Unfinished stuff that isn't promoted as the next messiahs (aka 99% of "AAA" developments) is widely accepted.

DayZ, despite the person who created it warned officially not to buy the title, remained in the top 10 selling list of Steam ever since it realease. I never met anyone not knowing about the status of that title. The acceptance of this business model started earlier, probably with Minecraft.

It is good that Steam now points out that products may never be finished, but in the end, people vote with their wallet and brains. I think the current warning on the actual store page should give the proper amount of concideration. If people still buy crap that isn't finished and never will be (hence, DayZ), no one is to blame but those poeple. As always. Valve doesn't have to protect their customers from themselves.

John Wallace
profile image
Steam at least needs to give consumers compensation from deceptive products, but when a product is clearly shown to be garbage (Air Control's trailer), I'm a bit less expecting of Steam. Same with Earth 2066's gameplay trailer on the store page.

William Johnson
profile image
This is pretty much a non issue in my book. I buy crappy complete games all the time because they're interesting.

Like for example, I love Jason Rohrer but Inside a Star-filled Sky is not very fun. But I bought it because Jason Rohrer is a god damn bad ass and I wanted to support him.

Buying early access is the same thing. Sometimes I buy incomplete games to support the developers or to just see some interesting ideas in action. Sometimes its good, sometimes its bad. Sometimes it'll never be complete. But whatever. Do you know how much I'd kill to see more incomplete games. Like I'd love to play the original incomplete version of Resident Evil 2, as an example.

Dave Hoskins
profile image
This is the same as crowd funding, but without the deadline or the goal.

The customers don't fully understand the development process, unfortunately, they see hacks as nailed in features and don't quite get that some things can be changed really quickly while other things are fixed because of costs.


none
 
Comment: