Today Valve announced “Early Access,” a new feature in Steam that will let players purchase and support games that are still in development.
Games bought through Early Access work just like any other game purchased on Steam: you pay for the game now, Steam downloads the latest version, and the game automatically updates regularly as the developers complete more of it. A full listing of the games available through Early Access is available on Steam, the highest profile of which is definitely Bohemia Interactive’s Arma III, whose alpha build is currently available. Valve says they’ll add more developers into the Early Access program in time. Since these games are incomplete, Steam warns potential buyers that most of these games are still filled with bugs and are missing content and art or musical assets.
Why would you want to buy an incomplete game you ask? Well, because a lot of PC gamers are already doing it — titles like Minecraft proved that you could sell a game before it was totally complete, and the popularity of gaming Kickstarters show that there are a lot of gamers out there willing to pay money to invest in a game’s potential rather than an actual product. Of course, you will get the complete, final version of any games you buy via Early Access upon their release.
There’s a handful of promising games already up on the service, and it’ll be interesting to see if Steam Early Access emerges as an alternative way of funding game development in the same way that Kickstarter as.