The landscape of video games and their development has been going through some major changes over the last year or two. For a long time there was a “wait and see” attitude, but now it feels like we’ve reached a point where it’s okay to begin to pass judgements.
A major change in the video game industry recently has been the ease of which bedroom programers can get their games on the market. Steam has been revolutionary in it’s execution of indie games being sifted onto their client. The way in which these games ultimately find their way onto the DRM and the final product finally getting to players is beginning to cause friction with some people, though.
Let’s back up.
Many indie games begin their lives on Kickstarter. Some see their goals, many don’t, and while it’s sad to see small developers dreams be delayed, the e-Darwinism of the site is necessary. This is where some games receive a lot of media attention, sometimes just as much as if they’d been releasing a fully formed title. It would be cynical to say that they don’t work for every ounce of media coverage, but the fact remains that eager players are hyped up for a game that isn’t going to be seen for several months, maybe a year, or longer.
Typically the next step is for the game to settle into Steam, probably in an Early Access position. Early Access is another key point for the developer; they receive more exposure, players get a taste of the unfinished product, and the developer has a second major inflow of cash.
This is where friction can occur. For those that aren’t as interested in major titles with hefty budgets, it is always thrilling to notice an unrecognized game on the Steam news feed. Quite often said games are Early Access. Something is to be said for being able to see a game as it learns to walk, but the novelty feels like it’s wearing off. Being presented with unfinished products but still being expected to dish out a good chunk of your Steam wallet is becoming annoying – at some point you just want a finished game.
There is obvious duality in this. On one side is the small time developer working very hard and living off rice so that they may chase their dream; not to mention players see an influx of fresh, original, video games that aren’t firmly under the boot of big time publishers. On the other side is a plethora of unfinished games. People used to be excited to play betas because they felt a kind of insight – they were on the ground floor – now its not only expected, but you have to pay for it.
It’s hard to say what kind of equilibrium will eventually be met. Which side do you guys swing toward?