Early Access Wins: How Recent Hits Prove It’s the Future of Gaming

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Early Access Success Stories Speak Volumes!

Story Highlight
  • Early access allows players to witness and influence a game’s development.
  • It offers a unique sense of community and participation in the development process.
  • The whole process allows players to enjoy exciting games earlier and often at a lower price.
  • Supporting transparent studios and exciting projects is key to a healthy early access system.

Early access refers to games that are available while still in development. These games are playable but may lack some features or have bugs.

They’re usually in alpha or beta stages and could take months or even years to fully release. It’s an excellent process to ensure a game doesn’t end up like Cyberpunk 2077 on launch day. 

Although Cyberpunk 2077 redeemed itself after getting consistent patches and content updates, the whole point of early access is to avoid a buggy mess of a launch. The initial days of early access were a Wild West show.

Glitchy messes, abandoned projects, outright scams… You could find it all. Frankly, it gave the whole model a lousy reputation. Yet here we are, and early access is booming like never before.

Valheim sold millions within its first year of early access, while Palworld made billions of profit with a budget of only $ 7 million. Sure, horror stories like The Day Before still exist, but there’s a change in the air.

So, why am I, and many other gamers, now actively seeking out early access titles?

Why it matters: Early access games like Valheim, Hades, and Subnautica became genre-defining experiences that likely wouldn’t have existed in the ‘old way’ of game development.

Hades Early Access
Titles like Hades and Valheim honed their winning formulas in early access, fueled by continuous player feedback.

I Crave The Creative Process

There’s an undeniable allure to being part of a game’s early development stages. Witnessing a raw concept blossom into a refined experience is truly fascinating.

Early access offers a level of transparency that traditional releases often lack. I can observe updates firsthand, directly influence the game’s direction, and feel like I am a part of something bigger.

It’s a two-way street. Developers receive invaluable feedback during crucial development phases, while gamers like me become integral to the game’s journey. I’ve contributed to refining some of my favourite games, such as V Rising, and it’s gratifying to see them evolve with community input.

A passionate and involved community can truly make magic happen. The gaming industry has been fixated on massive, open-world adventures. While I also enjoy those, there’s a growing sense of exhaustion.

Early access is where I am witnessing a revival of smaller, more focused games shining brightly. A game doesn’t have to consume all my time to be fantastic, and many early access gems prove just that.

Valheim
Valheim is one of the most famous early-access games, shaping the survival genre.

Early (and Often Cheaper) Access

Let’s not pretend money doesn’t factor in. When done right, early access lets us enjoy amazing titles for less. I remember buying V Rising and Valheim for less than ten bucks each, and it felt like a steal.

Sure, it comes with the risk of things going south, but I’m way more likely to gamble a reduced entry fee on an exciting project. It’s changed the game for smaller studios and niche genres that might not thrive with the big-budget AAA approach.

Personally, I love diving into games during those early months. The excitement of exploring a new world alongside the community is unbeatable. That feeling tends to fade over time, but nothing beats the initial hype.

Some of my all-time favorite games began as early access projects. They feature tight gameplay loops, unique mechanics, and a core gameplay concept so polished that you just can’t resist playing a little longer each time.

Achieving that balance is no easy feat, and witnessing developers refine their games in real-time with community feedback adds to the satisfaction.

Palworld Pokemon
Palworld is also a popular early-access title with more than 19 million players.

Early Access is a Gamble

Let’s inject some reality here. Early access is still a gamble. It requires a critical eye and a willingness to take risks.

I’ve burned myself before – projects such as The Day Before that fizzled out, promises that went unfulfilled…those hurt. The key is managing expectations and doing your research.

If promises feel too lofty, the roadmap is vague, or communication is dodgy, alarm bells should ring. Early access is built on trust between the developer and the player. When that trust is broken, the whole system suffers.

Regardless, early access has fundamentally changed gaming, and it’s here to stay. Steam is helping the process by taking a more active role in promoting quality projects. As gamers, we have a responsibility to choose wisely.

We can steer early access towards a healthier path by backing reputable studios, encouraging transparent communication, and getting behind genuinely thrilling projects. If done right, early access breeds innovation that the industry desperately needs.

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