Fighting Early Access Disasters

610 wc

Live shot of players navigating the gaming industry in 2018.

Bhagpuss has a post referencing, among other things, the deplorable state of Early Access game releases right now, seen in such recent launch disasters as Fallout 76 (not technically early access but, seriously, it was) and Atlas (which as I write this hasn’t been out more than a day and has already been review-bombed to death on Steam).

I have nothing to add to his observations except that yes, I agree. Game developers are taking advantage of us, big time. I don’t blame them for it, though. We volunteer to be taken advantage of, because we still aren’t very bright, as a collective.

What Bhagpuss didn’t really mention, though, is how we stop it. My personal response to these trends, as a consumer, which I began some two years ago or more-after the Landmark and ArcheAge debacles, and during that long stretch when a new survival game appeared on Steam every week: I strictly avoid buying *any* Early Access title on Steam *unless* it falls to $10 or less in a sale. The only exception I might make is if a game gets rave reviews from many people I trust. The vast majority don’t.

I haven’t been 100% successful, but there have only been a handful of failures in the last two years, and the more I stick to it, the easier it gets. This year I caved on Project: Gorgon for $30 (which was a discount, actually). I don’t feel too bad about that one, given the unique situation surrounding that game. Last year I caved on Conan Exiles, Factorio, and Dark and Light, each around $20. One of those I regret. I didn’t keep track as much in 2016.

Another policy I’ve held for a while now is that I do not pre-order games anymore. Nobody should. I might make an exception for something *really*, *really* special, but it would have to be from a developer and a franchise with a great reputation, and those are basically non-existent anymore. Even then, there’s no need. For games I really want, I’ve been able to buy them on launch day, download, and play the same day without issue every time. Pre-order not required.

It should go without saying that one should never, ever get involved in any “crowdfunded” games anymore. Ever. Period. The End. (I mean, unless maybe you personally know someone involved in making the game.) If the game is good enough, it will get the funding it needs and eventually launch and you can buy it then.

I often hear the sentiment that we consumers are powerless in the face of the greedy, exploitative game companies. But we actually have *all* the power. And we the consumers *have* to make it unprofitable for game companies to release unfinished, ill-conceived products, or else they’ll keep doing it forever. Why wouldn’t they? Why bother spending the money to finish a game when people will pre-order away based on some marketing copy and a flashy trailer, and jump up and down with excitement about it? It will remain that way until we change our buying behavior or a government steps in to regulate developers’ behavior. And *that’s* a different can of worms that’s way beyond the scope of this post.

Yes, it does require willpower and determination, qualities that are often lacking in modern Western civilization. But I would encourage or maybe I should say challenge everyone else to adopt some self-discipline, or we will continue to get train wrecks like Fallout 76 and Atlas and undoubtedly most game releases in 2019 and beyond to the end of our gaming lives.

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