Early access was created a useful tool for developers to acquire extra funding to finish projects. All in exchange for an advance playable version of their games and an open channel to players eager to provide feedback. The deal seems fair and all too commendable, unfortunately the format is rife with tales of broken promises and quick grab exits involving seedy developers. There are, however, some games that have reversed the trend and stand as beacons of what early access can really be. Here are four games that got early access right.
1. My Time At Portia
My Time At Portia is a whimsical take on a post-apocalyptic world that sits somewhere between Stardew Valley and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild. Part RPG, part farming/crafting simulator, the game revolves around the idea of returning to your father’s abandoned workshop and working to restore it to its former glory. Initially funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, My Time At Portia entered early access in January of this year and hasn’t made a wrong move ever since. Total clarity and transparency with backers is at the core of the game’s ethos with Chinese developers Pathea eagerly responding and implementing all and any feedback. In addition, they’ve gone so far as to include players in crafting the story line and side missions by opening up writing submissions. On top of all of this the game is a joy to play.
2. The Long Dark
Hard core survival game The Long Dark spent a while in early access, but with good reason as the developers were eager to provide a complete game in line with the initial promises made when they too embarked on a Kickstarter funding run. Not only did they over deliver on these promises, notably in the development of a dedicated, and excellent, single player mode with a rich, compelling story, but also a string of regular updates that took into account player feedback on successive builds. Topping this off was the fact that developer Hinterland reinvested every dollar earned through early access and Kickstarter back into the game, at polar opposites to numerous early access horror stories where developers run off with the money never to be heard from again.
Yes, another early access survival, but what an entry in our list. Plunged into the deep end, players must navigate the stunning ocean waters while contending with the rigors of underwater survival and the creatures that roam beneath the surface. Subnautica’s stint in early access was essentially a long dialogue between the developers and players with the latter working tirelessly to ensure the game had depth, intrigue, yet offered enough options and mechanics to satisfy a loyal, but demanding community. Subnautica succeeded and the launch into full scale release earlier this year confirms that proof is in the pudding. Early access did in fact save the developers from financial ruin. Making games can be mutually beneficial all round if done right.
It may come as a surprise given the widespread cultural clout and established community behind the game that Fortnite Battle Royale is actually still technically in early access. Not only has Fortnite dethroned its predecessor PUBG as the dominant battle royale title on the market, its has assured itself a very healthy financial balance sheet, and Epic Games are constantly adding new features and mechanics to the game to expand gameplay. On top of all of this, Fortnite is free-to-play meaning that in theory the devs should be less accountable to players, but on the contrary they eagerly improve the game on a near weekly basis. Maybe motivated by the lucrative micro-transactions model or simply devoted to the game, it’s hard to say, regardless Fortnite is a great example of how early access can be a hugely successful endeavor.