Burned By Steam Early Access? Valve Has New Rules Afoot

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Burned By Steam Early Access? Valve Has New Rules Afoot

Steam Early Access is an exciting idea that doesn't always hold it together. Perhaps best described as a mix of sizzle and steak where the sizzle is sometimes much more than the steak would merit, there have been times where players have felt burned by the Steam Early Access program. But needless to say, it doesn't take a lot of burned customers before either responses are framed or competitors start to circle, and in Valve's case, responses were framed to help improve Steam Early Access for the user base.

The overarching theme to the rule changes is rather simple: Steam Early Access is now to be regarded as “...a place for games that are in a playable alpha or beta state, are worth the current value of the playable build, and the developer plans to continue to develop for release.” That may sound a little mealy-mouthed, but Valve also notes that there is “...an expectation by customers that (developers) will continue development to a point where you have what you consider to be a 'finished' game.” Naturally—and Valve even notes this—there are circumstances that may prevent this, but developers are expected to maintain communication with players and set the appropriate expectations for whether or not the titles will ever actually finish.

There are a few other points as well, but the end result is all the same; it's about managing expectations and working toward a goal. That's all fine and well, but as several have already pointed out—some couching the conclusion in humor, invoking Captain Barbossa of “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie fame to remind us all that these are more “guidelines” than actual “rules” that will be required to be obeyed lest removal from Steam Early Access follow. The new rules appear to have very little in the way of teeth, with consequences for disobedience seeming to be somewhat...nil.

It's good that Steam is taking the bull by the horns here, so to speak, and requiring a little more accountability in its operations. But it really doesn't help matters all that much to not have much force behind its rules; what point to a rule that has minimal if any enforcement and minimal if any consequence for violation? Maybe I've just missed the penalty phase in question, but it doesn't exactly look like it's even there, let alone strong enough to encourage compliance.

People do want access to these games, and with good reason. Some very good games have shown up for play in this space, and naturally, people want in. But without that consequence phase, there's nothing stopping developers from running business as usual and charging gamers for half-finished dreck that will never be completed. Still, this isn't to take anything away from Valve. This is a good start and a good start is always better than nothing. But at the end of the day, to keep Steam Early Access as a viable market force, some changes will have to be made to make this a truly viable offer.

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