According to Eurogamer, the new rules will hold developers of Early Access titles to playable game standards throughout development.
According to the new rules, Steam Early Access is “meant to be a place for games that are in a playable alpha or beta state, are worth the current value of the playable build, and the developer plans to continue to develop for release.”
“When you launch a game in Steam Early Access, there is an expectation by customers that you will continue development to a point where you have what you consider a ‘finished’ game.”
Originally meant to aide independent developers in releasing titles that don’t have the major funding of a AAA studio, Steam Early Access and Greenlight programs have been met with criticism after a slew of unfinished, unplayable, or subpar games were released. Through the system, developers are able to charge potential customers for access to Alpha or Beta states of a game, potentially helping fund the completed product.
According to Patrick Walker, Head of Insights and Analytics at game data firm EEDAR, only 25% of Early Access titles have released as full games. He claims that the ambiguity in development calendars leads to many users paying for unfinished products compared to other crowd funding sources like Kickstarter.
“A notable difference between those particular models and Steam’s Early Access program is the lack of a firm release window; on Early Access, a game could theoretically stay in development and be sold to consumers indefinitely,” Walker wrote in a Game Industry article.
“Early Access has not received as much negative attention as these similar business models. Quite the opposite, as the Steam Early Access program has provided a legitimacy to paid beta programs outside of Steam. However, it will be interesting to see if this becomes an issue for consumers if the current trend of Early Access games spending a long time in development (or never reaching release) continues.”
Despite the low completion turnout, the titles that have graduated from Early Access have received fair exposure. Day Z has seen numerous spots in Steam’s Top Sellers list, and Kerbal Space Program received critical praise among Steam user reviews.
The updated Early Access rules comes as the gaming industry prepares for the holiday season. Steam’s Winter Sale is one of the top highlights among PC game consumers each December.