Ubisoft Wants To Use Steam’s Early Access Platform, Oh Dear
Early access is a great platform on Steam which allows great independently developed games to sell alpha or pre-alpha versions of their games in order to get funding and then release updates as they complete more of the game or polish the title up a bit more. It’s a great concept but one that is already abused with some games on Steam Early Access being too scant to justify paying anything for them or the game is simply unplayable in its current state.
It’s about to be abused even more as AAA developers and publishers have gotten a whiff of it. Specifically Ubisoft at the moment. Ubisoft announced this week that it will bring its free-to-play shooter Ghost Recon Online to the service worldwide later this year.
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The game is already available on Early Access in Canada actually with the rest of the world getting it sometime in autumn this year. According to Ubisoft producer Corey Facteau, bringing Ghost Recon Online to Steam has been the company’s goal since the game’s inception, and its release on Early Access will help the studio “fine tune” the experience, he said.
Ghost Recon Online is free-to-play so it is somewhat exempt from the mini rant that may follow.
The continuous funding that indie developers get through Early Access is great, they need that money to complete the game and keep working on it even if you are essentially buying half of a game with the other half promised to you later.
That sentiment doesn’t translate to big budget AAA devs and publishers. These are games are already funded, they don’t need our money during development. It’s more a case of wanting our money as soon as possible. Battlefield 4 is possibly an example of what Early Access AAA games may be like, its multiplayer is still rather broken.
Yes, when you buy into Early Access it’s with the understanding that you will get the complete and finished product in due time however, that’s a case of trusting the developer to deliver after they already have your money. They could very easily cut features and change things post-purchase.
An argument can be made for Early Access providing transparency and allowing gamers to be part of the development process with constant feedback. That is true but at a cost. For AAA publishers it seems unethical to sell us half of a game. Besides, they can just as easily get feedback and use it the way Eidos Montreal did with Thief or through proper beta testing like so many other games.
AAA developers and publishers moving in on Steam Early Access is a bad thing and should not be happening. There is no real reason for it apart from money and getting it as soon as possible.