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Sony considering an Early Access programme

"Honestly, we're working through that right now. We're figuring out what's okay"

Sony Computer Entertainment is actively discussing the possibility of an Early Access system for the PlayStation.

In a conversation with Gamasutra, Adam Boyes, SCE's vice president of developer and publisher relations, described the potential introduction of in-progress games as a "massive conversation" within the company.

Steam launched its pioneering Early Access platform in March last year, and unfinished games are now a regular feature of its top-selling games chart. Indeed, at the time of writing, five of the ten games Steam lists as bestsellers are Early Access: DayZ, Rust, The Forest, Space Engineers, Red Solstice.

Predictably enough, the big questions for Sony are around quality. As Boyes put it: "At what point does [a game meet standards of release]? We still at some point ensure that we're being mindful of the consumer. We don't want somebody to stumble across that title and expect a full product, and have a negative experience."

Nevertheless, Boyes expressed his desire - likely consistent with SCE's internal values - to "help bootstrap people," giving developers the sort of advantages that have made Early Access such a big success: bug fixing, community feedback and, of course, an early revenue stream that can allow the developer more freedom.

"Honestly, we're working through that right now. We're figuring out what's okay," Boyes said. "We obviously have our tech requirement checklist that people have to adhere to. So we're internally discussing, what does that list look like this? What are the caveats? Stuff like this. So it's still a project that a lot of minds are considering. No details yet, but it's something on the top of my mind every day."

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Latest comments (9)

Andrew Ihegbu Studying Bsc Commercial Music, University of Westminster2 years ago
For the sake of your consumers, please don't. My experience with many games has been that of scamming and general laziness from a devs that get to eat their cake before it's bought the flour and milk to bake it in the first place.

I literally have 7 games on Steam that were early access and left me with a very sour taste in my mouth. 3 have been there for 2 years of alpha/beta builds with tiny updates and nothing near a finished game on any kind of roadmap or horizon. 1 was the product of a lying dev who not only promised multiple things (as big as multiplayer itself) and never delivered, but also took the game out of early access and started going around mass banning anyone in the steam forums who complained about the lack of promised features.

Funnily enough, he's got a sequel game coming out soon too, despite the last one not being finished, and i don't even know the state of the others.

This kind of opening of the market really just brings forth scope for shoddy, dodgy players to come forth and take people's money without audit. If you make half a game and don't have the money to make the other half and that's your argument, then really you screwed the pooch in the management aspect anyway, and if not, then you should look at some form of crowd-funding instead of trying to promise people stuff when you're done.

This is not to say that there aren't good actors, but it seems that 3 out of 5 early access titles on steam are not going to come out doing what they said on the tin, and at that point, anything less than the stated expectation is a compromise made after taking my money.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Ihegbu on 14th July 2014 4:39pm

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Jamie Madigan Psychologist 2 years ago
I totally agree, but why would you buy the 5th, 6th, or 7th bad early access game after all of the experiences that came before them?
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nik blower pr, marketing & franchise director, Nordic Games GmbH2 years ago
If one looked at this sideways, with a squinted eye, through rose-tinted specs, you could reasonably conclude this is one step on from Gran Turismo Prologue. Game not finished, shove out a part of it, get "valuable consumer feedback/cash", finish game dev.

Perhaps one assurance that could be brought about by SCE (or MSft or Nintendont for that matter) is the deal terms with the dev which provides assurance of financing to complete said game in exchange for some SCE benefit, circumventing the never-finished scenario
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Show all comments (9)
Charlie Cleveland Game Director/Founder, Unknown Worlds2 years ago
My resounding vote is: yes please! It would be amazing to see consoles have this kind of experimentation and innovation.

Think of it as an experiment. If it doesn't work, you can stop doing accepting any new early access games. I think if you make the label big enough ("DO NOT BUY THIS GAME", etc.) players will can get that sneak preview and help make the game better (the REAL benefit of Early Access), while the majority who want only "finished" games will stay far away.

We would be the first to sign up (Subnautica).
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Sergio Rosa "Somewhat-Creative Director", Domaginarium2 years ago
@Andrew: You're right about that, but the upside about consoles is that they are not very "open" and it is very unlikely they will accept a broken game with only one level, one character, and tons of bugs, into their early access program. I would assume early access game on consoles would need to go through some sort of certification other than "it was greenlit so go ahead, dude" like Steam does.
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend2 years ago
IMO, I think the reason this kind of thing is being looked at by Sony is the limited return avenues that games can utilise. Films and Music have multiple revenue streams once the content is released, so can continue to bring a return for a long time after. Games don't really have that.

I think F2P/DLC is the industries answer to it, so it is not surprising Sony is looking at this as a viable revenue stream. Though I do agree it is a very risky thing to get into whichever side you are on.
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all this does is steal from future earnings, and does it with a half ass product which likely damage lifetime revenue and which will also likely alienate people in the long run. How does offering half finished half baked products suddenly make sense? Just how bad has things become that we now are willing to sell half finished products? Does everything have to be a con game now?

As I said many times, you only get to make a first impression once, and when that impression isnt very good, word of mouth kills you. Sure you may have the clowns who will spew" that its only beta", but honestly that argument holds no water as soon as a company starts charging for a product.,

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 14th July 2014 6:34pm

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Carl Crawford Studying Bachelor of Information Technology, Otago Polytehnic2 years ago
Arent all EA/Activision/Ubisoft most games already like this? The reason I play on console is because there is a gate keeper. It gives a little bit more assurance that the game will actually work (doesn't always pan out). Even then games like Aliens: Colonial Marines still get released. Please don't turn the console into a PC, its bad enough every time I want to play a game I have to download gigs of updates.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 2 years ago
You hear about a game, you instantly pay money to have the game, you then realize you never have time to actually play the game. I dare say that if a gamer reaches a certain age, this is how it goes down and there is a market for this type of consumer experience.

It is also worth noting that this does not happen with $60 games, it happens with games that are closer to a pack of cigarettes or pointless purchases you would do at a mall. For that reason the PS4 is exactly the right platform for this.
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