It used to be that when you purchased a game, you were bringing home a finished product. As online connectivity has grown for PC and console gamers, the relationship between developers and their products (and the consumers that purchase them has changed).

The most recent alteration to that traditional relationship has been “early access.” Mojang found great success selling Minecraft to interested players early, and Steam has institutionalized the practice via a growing program.

The frequently asked questions document for Steam’s Early Access program now includes a caveat for buyers. The company now warns that there is no guarantee that Early Access titles will ever be finished. 

This distances Valve from the relationship (much as Kickstarter keeps dealings between project manager and backer at arm’s length). It puts even more onus on a buyer to understand that he or she should expect nothing more than what is available at the moment of purchase.

“You should be aware that some teams will be unable to 'finish' their game,” the new statement reads. “So you should only buy an Early Access game if you are excited about playing it in its current state.” 

[Source: Valve via VentureBeat]


Our Take
We identified Early Access as one of the big topics of 2014 way back on New Year’s Day. Early Access if approached honestly and in earnest by developers can be a wonderful tool for cultivating a loyal and eager player base. It also, unfortunately, has far too much room for abuse

Thankfully, Valve has a great track record of refunding customers when something becomes clear as a scam. I hope that this passage in the FAQ isn’t intended to protect themselves over consumers. This update was made very quietly, which is a bit concerning.