The lights are on
If there was any doubt that Early Access was here to stay, it should be fading away at this point. The concept of paid alphas popularized by Minecraft has spread to Steam, with some large publishers already taking advantage of the process.
Ubisoft has offered multiple titles with associated purchase prices on Steam prior to full release. Square Enix is currently offering access to Nosgoth via Early Access.
At E3, we spoke to DICE’s Karl Magnus Troedsson, who indicated that his studio (and by extension EA) is considering paid testing phases. Sony, too, has recently spoken about implementing the practice.
Now, Microsoft suggests that some developers are pushing for implementation of a mechanism that would allow them to offer pre-release games for a price. As with Sony, there isn’t anything to announce right now, but ID@Xbox lead Chris Charla says that he is “listening really closely to developers” on the matter.
Our TakeWhether this dialog ever manifests for consumers isn’t something we’ll know any time soon. The communications for anyone in the console space to engage in Early Access or paid testing by any other name would need to be clear in a way that goes far beyond the warning offered on Steam.
As I mentioned with regard to Sony’s comments on Early Access, successful and ethical implementation on console is far more complex than on PC. The user demographics different enough that safeguards will need to be in place to prevent a public relations problem.