In 2018, two projects were released that alerted the public. The games turned out to be so unprepared that the maximum delayed on the beta version. Gamers were outraged that for $ 60 they got a raw product that the developers were trying to pass off as a full game.
In addition, these projects were released not by young studios, but by large companies. It turned out that gamers became unspoken beta testers who paid for early access to a high-budget project or a so-called AAA-class game.
Some gamers have even begun to worry that such a model will take hold in the gaming industry, and there will be $ 60 raw games released every year. Yet there are a couple of factors that will prevent this from happening.
What it is ?
Early Access was introduced to the gaming industry about 10 years ago, and the pioneer is Marcus Persson, the creator of Minecraft. In 2009, he released a beta version of his game and invited gamers to support the project with a dollar. Buyers of the early version received free updates, as well as promises from Marcus to finish the game two years later. The developer did not deceive, and already in 2011, Minecraft left beta status.
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Valve took over the idea in 2013, launching the Early Access program, which allowed games to be sold early in development. The idea is that the developers received additional funding, and gamers could leave feedback and create a dream game. For example, Dead Cells came out of Early Access and won Best Action Game at The Games Awards in 2018.
At the same time, this program has one drawback – most games never leave Early Access. Moreover, the statistics are getting worse every year. According to EEDAR, in 2013 30 projects out of 104 were released from Early Access into a full-fledged release, and in 2015 only 18 out of 573 projects lost their “beta” plate. It is unlikely that such statistics can be boasted, but now imagine that this practice applies to AAA-level projects
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The first bell
Fallout 76 and Battlefield 5, which can be called the worst projects of 2018, became indicative in 2018. Even before the release, gamers understood that they were waiting for games for an amateur, but the final product destroyed all expectations. Directly a new word in the industry.
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Bethesda was clearly in a hurry with the release of Fallout 76. Perhaps the developers were urged on by the publisher, who did not want to postpone the release date, or the studio simply decided to find the boiling point of the fans. In any case, gamers received a very crude product that would have been worth finishing for a few more months, if not starting from the beginning. The problem isn’t even the tone of the glitches, but the gameplay base that just doesn’t work.
In interviews, studio representatives said that they plan to support Fallout 76, adding new tasks, shelters for research, and so on. In addition, even before the release, Bethesda published messages with plans to repair the game. It turns out that on November 14, gamers received only an early version, which the developers planned to improve in the future. Some sort of Early Access for AAA games.
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DICE did the same with the release of Battlefield 5. The developers promised that the game will receive a multiplayer mode, four story campaigns, as well as the “royal battle” Firestorm. Despite promises and one postponement of the release, on November 20, players got only three story missions and a broken multiplayer, and the “battle royale” mode is still being completed. As a result, for $ 60, gamers got another raw game, which the developers are still finishing.
Of course, this situation did not suit the gaming community, which now ignores Battlefield 5 and breaks disks from Fallout 76. Perhaps the developers should have been more honest with the players and bluntly declare that: “I’m sorry, but we are not in time”. Bethesda and DICE could have moved the release dates, but launched the games in the form of beta in order to improve the projects already together with the players who gave their hard-earned money. Perhaps such an approach would reassure gamers, but it would hardly be an excuse for the low quality of games.
Early Access means nothing anymore
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Most likely, the “beta” bar would only reduce the degree of fans’ aggression, because in recent years, “Early Access” has lost its former meaning. Take a look at PUBG, which hit Steam Early Access on March 23, 2017. The game was also not ready for release, but that did not stop it from becoming a viral sensation on Twitch, selling 13 million copies and topping the Steam chart.
The game made it to release only on December 21, 2017, having received as many as 40 updates that improved performance and added new elements. It’s hard to say that the game performed better in Early Access than Fallout 76, but the developers managed to create a framework that players liked. That is, the developers made PUBG interesting right away.
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Much the same can be said for Fortnite’s Battle Royale, which still hasn’t made it out of beta, but is already generating billions for Epic Games. This may be because the game is free and gamers have nothing to complain about, but many users are buying season passes, skins, and game currency. They support the project with money, because they see its prospects and the quality of the beta version. I didn’t play Fortnite at the start, but I can say that in 2018 the project is ready for a full release.
In fact, Early Access is now only helping developers find additional funds to complete the game. In an interview with Kotaku, Jesús Arribas, director of the independent studio Numantian Games, said Early Access projects “need to be polished like full games.”
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Game services also blur the line between the finished project and the beta version. Most of the major games that target online change after release. The same Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege gamers criticized at the release, but now it is one of the best multiplayer shooters. Ubisoft worked on the progression, added characters, maps, guns and made the game a candy bar.
The developers did not release an empty game with a bunch of bugs, promising to fix everything with updates. At launch, Rainbow Six Siege was a completely finished project, albeit with flaws. It’s okay for developers to tweak the balance after release, but it’s unforgivable if a game has to be tweaked from the ground up.
Should you sharpen a pitchfork?
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In 2018, about 20 large projects were released, and only a couple were not ready for release, even if large developers were responsible for them. Most studios understand that release is the most important time to play. If gamers at the start see that the project is crude and unplayable, then they are unlikely to want to return after six months. The incident with Fallout 76 and Battlefield 5 showed the developers that this approach only harms the reputation.
In addition, there are studios in the industry that are trying to release the most polished projects. The same CD Projekt and Rockstar have earned the trust of the public and each time they hit the jackpot, although they make games once in a generation. So the so-called “early access for AAA games” is unlikely to become a trend. It only harms the reputation and makes gamers angry.
At the same time, 2019 could be the renaissance of games-services. Developers will make interesting and high-quality projects to lure players, but in case of failure they will be able to change the game with updates. Take a look at the same Destiny 2: the game has been scolded since the release, but the content additions were able to win back the interest of fans and even attract a new audience.