Steam’s Early Access program is a sucker bet

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Steam’s Early Access program is a success! If you’re a developer. You get to collect money while you work on a game’s development, and you benefit from willing tester feedback. It’s enough of win-win that big publishers like EA and Ubisoft have taken notice. Why not get paid while developing a game if people are willing to open their wallets? If you’re a consumer that wants a finished game, Steam’s Early Access program is less of a positive. According to Patrick Walker, EEDAR Head of Insights and Analytics, only 25% of titles launched on Steam Early Access have actually graduated to full releases. Gamers are, on average, paying $1 more for Early Access games than the full release version. Additionally, Walker points out that unlike other industry pre-pay programs, Steam Early Access has a large caveat.

A notable difference between [Kickstarter and Season Passes] and Steam’s Early Access program is the lack of a firm release window; on Early Access, a game could theoretically stay in development and be sold to consumers indefinitely, whereas a Season Pass is rolled out within a specific time frame and all Kickstarter projects are presented with an estimated “delivery date”.

358 games have launched on Steam’s Early Access since the program began in March 2013 and the rate is rising. Thanks for buying DayZ and Rust!