Since Valve first revealed its Early Access scheme in March of last year over 860 titles have been approved for early access sale. Notwithstanding the good ones (and even the bad ones!), most of the information that these developers make clear to us consumers about their games is severely lacking and remains unregulated within Steam.
It’s still essentially our responsibility to research and learn as much as possible about these titles before purchasing them. But the current structure of the reviews industry makes it difficult to know very much about the various states of these titles by virtue of their being currently in development and ever-changing. It’s difficult for us to be informed consumers when the latest review for an early access title is months off from the game’s current state and when scattered forum posts reveal little in between bickers.
Valve does list a few stipulations to its consumers regarding early access titles. They clearly recognize the problems that consumers face when making a decision, and yet these issues remain wholly untouched. No systems currently exist to root out carbon copies and piggybackers of more successful titles (we're looking at you, The War Z), or to require developers to maintain up-to-date feature lists and future plans (and at you, Rust, and you too, Starbound), or to help out regretful consumers of poor products.
So here’s a list of a few things, Valve, that those of us who sign would like to have happen:
- Valve, highlight related games, in concept and in name, to prevent any confusion between titles and to avoid any controversy in marketing deceitful games.
- Valve, find a way to require and regulate a title’s feature list (in the same vein as Next Car Game and Planetary Annihilation) as well as its promises for release and the dated or undeveloped content on its page that is shown to potential consumers.
- And, Valve, begin to offer returns like your competitors do to allay the regrets of misled purchases that early access is becoming increasingly associated with.