Was Planetary Anihilators the final nail in the coffin for Early Access ?

Zontar

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When Planetary Annihilators came out on Early Access, it damaged the system. There was, in a retail outlet, an unfinished product being sold for over double the price of the finished one months before the (4 months delayed and counting) release. Now if it had been the end of it, then nothing would have been a problem. Any system can take the strain of a loose cog.

But it didn't stop there. Where conventional wisdom about economics shows it should have been a failure which should have crashed and burned, despite all the logic behind it the fact that humans are irrational reared its ugly head and the game sold enough for Uber to not go out of business despite their inability to manage their money properly.

And like any price gouging which works, others emulated it. Wasteland 2, DayZ, Galactic Civilization III and a few smaller ones no one actually cares about, the practice is spreading.

And people are supporting it.

What happened to us? There was an outcry when PC games went from a standardized 50$ price tag to a 60$ one because of Call of Duty. It didn't stop us from buying the same games for more money, but there was at least some backlash. Now? Corporate apologists are saying "it's Early Access, it's a privilege to play it" or "they are just being fair to those who supported the kickstarter" as if those people would actually be upset by the game being made.

The practice is alive now, canonized as a standard practice. Will it stick? Will we see it die like it should? Or will we have to wait for when Early Access is shut down next year?
 

Liquidprid3

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It's pretty dumb, but I haven't bought any Early Access games, and it's people's decision on what to purchase. None of the games I've been looking forward to are in Early Access, or will be, so it doesn't effect me. Right now. I am afraid that this might effect other games, so we'll see where this goes.
 

Vault101

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is that the RTS? I can see the issue if the finished product sold for less than the early access..and I question selling early access for the full price of the game [i/]even if[/i] it will eventually become a full game

I guess the reason (or at least they said in Wastelands 2 case) is that it helps with QA testing and the like

I'm sure there have been people who have been suckered in not reading the fine print and not understanding what "early access" actually means, but if its made clear (which it arguably is if you take a second to actually look at the page of the thing you are buying) then really people choose to buy it and they are [b/]not[/b] expecting a full version of the game, I obviously wouldn't but again people do

there was some controversy where an indie game (that I got incidently) was aparently unfinished and a bit of a minor shit storm there where people acused the dev of selling what should have been early access because apparently they ran out of money

but again..as I said people know they are buying something unfinished, its beyond me why they would pay full price for it rather than wait but thats their choice

I don't know how indie development works but I can understand it sucking if they taking fucking forever to release there game (looking at you wasteland 2) but still
 

OneCatch

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I think that early access is fine, even at near fullprice, provided you get something decent to compensate your investment (season pass analogue, unique artwork or storyboards, bonus vehicles/classes/characters/weapons - the usual stuff). It's a valuable way for indie devs to support early development costs.

But I think charging above fullprice under any circumstances is cheeky, and Planetary Annihilation was absurd. It was twice the price of a AAA game, and apparently it's roughly equivalent to a £15 game in terms of complexity and breadth. And their emphasis was on barefacedly charging customers substantially extra for the 'privilege' of beta testing, when the emphasis should always be to give loyal customers and investors a reward for their support.

And if you're a AAA dev you don't need startup capital from users. Betas should be free for established franchises like Total War, Far Cry, Civ, CoH, whatever - you're doing them the favour for playtesting it and ramping up the hypetrain.
 

shrekfan246

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I doubt it, mostly because Early Access has been digging its grave for a long time with the complete lack of oversight on the developers putting out their unfinished games.

GalCiv III isn't even in the top 30 sellers on Steam at the moment (it's at 31, at least if the list is organized chronologically as it should be, which is just above things like Counter-Strike: Source and Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition). So I'd say most people have a good enough hand on their wallets to avoid something being sold at $100. I mean, it arguably offers an incentive in the way of providing all future expansions as well, but yeah, it's Early Access, it's going to be a long time until the base game is even out.

And DayZ is being sold at half the price of a normal AAA game. I would struggle a bit to say this is now a "standard" practice. Three games, four if you're making a stretch, hardly makes it a "standard". It's not a good practice, but I can't imagine people are going to support $100 USD games in enough numbers for it to become a viable asking price. And if they do, well, then there isn't really anything you or I can do about it, unfortunately.
 

Bernzz

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The huge price of the Planetary Annihilation Early Access was to equal the costs of the tiers of their Kickstarter, so that the people who paid extra to be in the alpha/beta in the Kickstarter wouldn't feel ripped off if random people on Steam got into it cheaper. Once I knew that backstory, I saw no problem with the price. Waiting until it's released before I buy it anyway, like with anything that's Early Access.
 

raeior

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Bernzz said:
The huge price of the Planetary Annihilation Early Access was to equal the costs of the tiers of their Kickstarter, so that the people who paid extra to be in the alpha/beta in the Kickstarter wouldn't feel ripped off if random people on Steam got into it cheaper. Once I knew that backstory, I saw no problem with the price. Waiting until it's released before I buy it anyway, like with anything that's Early Access.
I was going to post the same thing. I think it's fine as an option for the enthusiast to support this game, something like an extended backing period. Obviously this is something everyone has to decide for himself. The problem comes with Steam putting early access titles prominently on the front page. If they were put in a clearly labelled extra category or something it would solve most of the problems I guess. On the other hand if you look at the forum (especially the earliest posts) of PA you can see what a marketing catastrophe the price was, because a lot of people were raging "HOW DARE YOU DEMAND THIS PRICE???".
As long as it's clearly communicated what you are getting yourself into it's fine in my opinion. It's the same thing with Kickstarter. The question everyone has to ask himself is "Do I really want to invest money in a project that could just be a lot of hot air".

The difference to something like the new Metal Gear title or something would be the size of the company behind the project (for me at least). Something like PA simply would not happen without the support of the backers or early access users. Something like Metal Gear clearly would happen regardless of them selling a demo version.

Anyone who doesn't want to risk ending up with an unfinished game or doesn't want to pay the huge price for the early access version should just stick to the regular version that will be released when it's done. For me the price clearly was too high even though I would love a successor to Total Annihilation but as I said, that's something everyone has to decide for himself.
 

Summerstorm

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Bernzz said:
The huge price of the Planetary Annihilation Early Access was to equal the costs of the tiers of their Kickstarter, so that the people who paid extra to be in the alpha/beta in the Kickstarter wouldn't feel ripped off if random people on Steam got into it cheaper. Once I knew that backstory, I saw no problem with the price. Waiting until it's released before I buy it anyway, like with anything that's Early Access.
This is true...

I don't think these models of financing something have "doomed" anything. I like Kickstarters, i like early access.

Sure, some developers didn't make it in my opinion. Some games stagnated or ran into problems. Ok, that is a risk. But overall it is a "goodwill" system, they are not holding anything hostage. You CAN pay... or you can wait. YOU as a customer are a balacing factor.

"Hm, those guys are doing what i will probably LOVE to play... man i WISHED i could help them. Now i can't code for free or something... hm MAYBE I COULD GIVE THEM MONEY up front?" is nicety from you. You are making them free. Now you can sometimes steer the developement for this contribution (at least a little bit).

Or you could say: "Hm, likely good, would buy later - when it's done and out" - so you don't help them... If they don't get enough money to make it then, clearly not enough people wanted to invest in it - and wanted to get it later (or never) - no shame in that. That is the risk of trying to do free developement with such a system.
 

Savagezion

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I am a founder for GalCiv3 and I really feel it and DayZ have the right idea. Now, I don't care about alpha stuff much, I am mostly a Gal Civ 3 backer because I am not worried that in the long run I won't have 1 base game and 1 or maybe 2 decent expansions all for $100. I bet it launches at $60 and the first expansion launches at $40 anyways. Plus, in the end I know I will get over 1000 hours out of it making me not worried about paying a dime an hour. I could get 2-3,000.

Early Access helps fund the game and allows people "say" in the game's development. It's basically free enterprise investing. A smart company should make investing affordable but as high so they can to help fund the game. (The price of the game is a fair trade because you usually get a free copy.) A $5 alpha entrance is a little foolish as 200,000 people giving you $5 only gives you a $1m budget. Don't get me wrong, $1m isn't bad, but that isn't "the sky is the limit - lets make a great game" money. You need around $10m to even be thinking like that. So you need at least 1 million people to give you 5 bucks. Then all those people already have a copy of the game. I hope you are really good at low cost advertising or you probably wont be able to fund a sequel/second game with your profits. (Most will have bought in round 1 - which you spent developing the game.)

I think $20-30 is the lowest it should ever go for early access. However, early access don't mean "no need to pay testers too". I think early access models can be used well. But I think if the price stayed higher, people would pick and choose what they plunge into more carefully. I have no interest in a $5-15 alpha. May not make enough money and die. Some people adopt the "gotta catch em all" mindset regarding them, which is fine. But don't be shocked if many of them drop off or end up much smaller than you imagined if you do spread thin

The early access stuff bothers me but mostly because I see what amounts to indie shovelware and want to see some sort of filter for it so I don't have to deal with it if possible. That's the problem in the app market and I think that is why Steam is wanting to tone it down a notch too. Early Access being in place I see as a good thing. A huge library with some awesome games, but a lot of shovelware. Both indie studios and major companies can use it wisely or like rubbish only good for a quick buck.

What worries me is that the industry will begin to want to do this with every game. Trying to avoid creating a dud, finding out interest before making a game by making you pay before they make it, any alpha "not showing potential" is dropped and now we don't get 'crappy' games with good ideas in them anymore. We get an unfinished alpha/beta that was dropped and no one cares anymore and it is incomplete. You can't even play games you love that did horribly because at the first sign of doing bad the dev pulls his pockets out empty and shrugs. Hell, it even offers up potential for selling a game piecemeal. Publishers just LOVE that aspect I bet. I can sell COD piecemeal!?! COD BlOps 3 alpha available tomorrow! Who needs a game idea when I have you, our fans for "feedback"? Gimme money and I will make something. That would only end in disaster with 20+ DLC 'add-ons'.
 

Shpongled

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Apr 21, 2010
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Why should early access die out? I must say you're incredibly short-sighted here. Like, you're missing the forest for the tree's. It's hard to really put into words how silly this post is.

Early access is just a form of investment in which you happen to get the added of bonus of being able to play whats been made so far. We pay money to the company now so they can use that money to make a good game. Kinda like how Kickstarter offers people the chance to invest in things they think have good potential. Kinda like how investments from the bank allow business with strong potential to reach that potential. Kinda like how parents pay for their kids college education so they can get a good job in 5 or 10 years time.

It's called investment. It's not a concept that greedy evil money-grubbing gaming programmers came up with just now to steal money, it's a fundamental part of our economy. You're gonna have to get used to it.

Early Access is only a bad thing if you assume customers are too stupid to understand that what they're paying for hasn't yet reached it'sfull potential, and will take time. If you want to put yourself in the category of customers too stupid to understand the concept of investment, then fine. But you should understand that the rest of us aren't this stupid.

The initial price point of early access for PA did shock me at first, but knowing the logic behind the decision i'm ok with it.

Just as an aside, logically one would have thought a forum so against corporate involvement would love the opportunity for consumers themselves to fund new enterprises.
 

Ender910_v1legacy

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It really does depend on the game and the development team, honestly. Grim Dawn for example (spiritual successor to Titan Quest) is really quite good, although not yet complete. Their release model was pretty solid though: Focus on the core mechanics and gameplay first and foremost, and gradually complete the campaign in large portions. So far this has work splendidly. The game's exceedingly fun, although a little short currently (although admittedly progress has been lagging a little).

A lot of the successful Kickstarter projects were started by developers who had created a name in the industry, with a reputation for brilliant ideas. The problem we're seeing is that it's being done far far too often now, and mostly by indie developers with little to no experience in professional development, or projects that were poorly managed from the get-go.

I'm sure once the hype finally dies down crowd-sourced projects will continue to be a perfectly viable alternative, so long as the developers know what they're doing and enthusiastic gamers continue to support good creative work.
 

veloper

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A company can demand your soul for beta testing an unfinished game for all I care, aslong as the seller is upfront about it.

If some people are willing to pay more for a shittier experience, so the latecomers can have a better product, then that's good news for everyone. If people wanted to buy my trash, I'd sell it too.
 

Stormcloud23

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I think you're missing the point entirely. I backed planetary annihilation with $120 because TA and SupCom are still firmly within my all time favorite games and I wanted to support a spiritual sequel. I also wanted to get the earliest possible access to the game, which meant backing at a higher than standard price, which I was fine with. If Uber had gone and placed that early access on steam for $20 just a month or two after I got access, do you think that would have been fair? Some games allow you to pay for a game in progress, which furthers the studio's budget and helps them make a more complete game. PA already had all the money it needed, so the people who bought into it early were paying for the ability to play it before it was officially released.
 

ForumSafari

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Planetary Annihilation was sold for over the price of release on the basis that players who joined early would be able to influence the direction of the game and so affect the end product, that is considerable added value so I don't see the problem with them charging more.

If you want to complain, try going after their forums and the fact that it's a fucking hugbox where any criticism is drowned out by a few users and a mod, preventing people exercising that right.

EDIT: That's also why the price keeps dropping, the closer they get to release the less input players will have.
 

Zontar

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Feb 18, 2013
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I keep seeing people throwing around "investment" and "crowd funding", but the problem with that is, Early Access is not an investment any more then me buying groceries is. You are buying a product and that is all (and given that it's a game on Steam, technically it isn't even buying it outside of the EU).

Investment implies a return or possibility of return, which is a criteria Early Access does not meet without stretching the definition to encompass all purchases.

And crowd funding has no place on Steam. Steam is a retail outlet that has a forum and in-game item market attached to it. That isn't a place for showing unproven concepts that have no guarantee of working or ever bearing fruition. There's a place for that already, and it's called Kickstarter.
 

lacktheknack

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Jan 19, 2009
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I've never understood why gamers are often so eager to see options be removed.

Yeah, early access has the potential to bite you in the ass. Newsflash: So do casinos. When do we get a wave of "Close All Casinos" through here?