Barely a week after Sony announced that they are investigating the possibility of a Steam-like Early Access programme, Chris Charla from [email protected] revealed that Microsoft could also be exploring the option.
Steam’s Early Access gives you the opportunity to pay to play games while they are still in development. The purpose of Early Access from a gamer’s perspective is to play games early while getting a feel for how they will play. It also gives developers feedback from a wider audience which, along with a much-needed cash injection they can use to polish their nearly-ready games to a shine.
A more cynical outlook would be that paying for Early Access to a game is like paying the company making it to be a beta tester.
“Right now on Xbox One and Xbox 360, you can do betas. A lot of games do, and some games do private betas. When we talk about early access, it typically means a game that you buy and it evolves over time to become 1.0, so you’re buying it before it’s 1.0 – Minecraft on PC is a perfect example,” Charla said to the website Develop.
He added that developers have been asking Microsoft for an Early Access feature, but have no further details on the matter.
“It’s something developers have been asking for, and we are listening really closely to developers, but I don’t have anything to announce on that right now.”
Microsoft is well aware of the issues plaguing Early Access programmes and is careful to avoid them, like having a voting system where gamers vote for which games they would like to see released early.
“It’s a really interesting issue with digital marketplaces, and it’s something our store and marketplace team think about all the time. There’s a lot of heavy deep thinkers, experts, PhDs working on these problems at Xbox every day – not just for the Xbox store, but for Windows Store and Windows Phone. Our goal is to have a rational marketplace, where good games are visible and sell well.”
As mentioned, Sony is toying with the idea of a similar program by allowing PlayStation players to get access to playable code from developers, but it seems like it is also only an idea for now.
“That’s one of the massive conversations we have internally – that, 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,” Sony Computer Entertainment America VP of publisher and developer relations Adam Boyes told Gamasutra.[Source – Develop]