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Valve tightens rules on Early Access

Demands more transparency from developers, avoidance of promises about the finished product

Valve has taken further steps in regulating Steam Early Access, setting out new rules and guidelines for developers interested in using the service.

Early Access has been an incubator for a number of interesting projects since it launched in 2013, but as this year has progressed the number of cautionary tales has grown ever larger. Now, according to a number of developers in contact with Giant Bomb, Valve is attempting to address those issues with more clarity on how the service should be approached.

In general, the new rules focus on developers making sure consumers know that the game is still in development, and to avoid making promises regarding the final product.

The simplest manifestation of this is the requirement that all Steam keys are marked as "Early Access" regardless of where they're sold - a practice Valve has spotted on third-party websites. Vale also requires developers to launch on Early Access at the same time, and at the same price, as on any other service or website.

The most problematic new rule for developers - but arguably the most important going forward - is a prohibition on making, "specific promises about future events."

"For example, there is no way you can know exactly when the game will be finished, that the game will be finished, or that planned future additions will definitely happen. Do not ask your customers to bet on the future of your game.

"Customers should be buying your game based on its current state, not on promises of a future that may or may not be realised."

Beyond these rules, Valve also offered what amounts to friendly advice, some guidelines that developers may want to consider before they launch on Early Access. They are:

  • Don't launch in Early Access if you can't afford to develop with very few or no sales.
  • Make sure you set expectations properly everywhere you talk about your game.
  • Don't launch in Early Access without a playable game.
  • Don't launch in Early Access if you are done with development.

Valve altered the language it uses to explain Early Access back in June, when it added a caveat in its terms and conditions warning users that some games on the service would never be finished. This echoes similar problems related to unfinished projects on Kickstarter.

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Latest comments (2)

André Bernhardt Free Bird, IndieAdvisor2 years ago
Don't launch in Early Access without a playable game.

Good idea ;)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by André Bernhardt on 22nd November 2014 12:40pm

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Tom Pickard Founder and Creative Director, Knifey Spoonie Games2 years ago
Fantastic news. This is what I assumed Early Access was for when they announced it, but it was regularly abused and flaunted. And now to have it clarified in the rules/regs section means we should see a lot better quality of games entering early access and actually creating what they intend.

I think the - Don't launch in Early Access if you are done with development. rule Is an unexpected but great rule, Early access shouldn't be used for Beta testing, it should be to get the community involved and help shape areas of the game. If you don't want feedback or ideas then look for alternative funding or self fund it.

Good work Valve!
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