AAA publishers now eyeing Steam Early Access

Ubisoft's Ghost Recon Online now available through Steam in Canada; launching worldwide sometime this spring.

The overwhelming success of games like DayZ and Rust on Steam's Early Access platform appears to have caught the attention of AAA publishers. Ubisoft announced this week that it will bring its free-to-play shooter Ghost Recon Online to the service worldwide later this year.

In fact, the game is currently available in Canada through Steam Early Access, while the worldwide rollout is scheduled for sometime in spring 2014. According to Ubisoft producer Corey Facteau, bringing Ghost Recon Online to Steam has been the company's goal since the game's inception, and its release on Early Access will help the studio "fine tune" the experience, he said.

Ghost Recon Online originally launched in 2012 through a beta and development on the title at Ubisoft Singapore is ongoing. You can play the game today by signing up at its website.

Developers have made the argument that releasing unfinished games through Steam Early Access allows them to be more transparent in the development process and better incorporate feedback into the final product. The contrarian opinion, however, points out that it could be perceived as problematic for developers to make money from potentially half-finished games.

What do you think?

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Eddie Makuch

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.
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249 comments
Lausanna
Lausanna

I'm ambivalent about early access. While I can see the value in having a larger base of criticism to work with, I don't personally want to pay for it. I also agree with an earlier post that early access makes more sense for indie devs with limited budgets, not AAA publishers who should already have the money. The only way I'd pay for a AAA in early access is if it was a game I intended to buy at launch anyway, meaning that I want it before it would ever be on sale. And I can count the number of IPs I'd pay launch price for on one hand. A hand with a few amputated fingers at that.

JURGMANDR
JURGMANDR

Yay another mediocre third person shooter is going to be on Steam. I've played GRO for probably 35+ hours and it just feels like 2 steps backwards from GR:Future Soldier as far as being able to switch weapons/classes during a match (the worst thing that can happen is ending up with a whole team of recon -__- ). I really hated how your attachment gets destroyed if you buy another and install it. 

Stepn2myworld
Stepn2myworld

Early Access: One of the worse ideas ever.  There is no way I am knowingly paying for an unfinished game.  This is a horrible trend I believe all gamers should avoid regardless of the quality of some titles.

virtualskill
virtualskill

Microtrans, poor DLC, and now Early Access....Gamers - please stop getting suckered out of all your money. Try buying games when they are good and COMPLETE or you'll be getting a ton of EA clone 1/2 finished games in no time.

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

Alpha & Beta testing is one of the most expensive parts of development. If they can save those costs and pump it back into the game itself why not.

Development costs were getting out of control and AAA was dying because of it.

snaketus
snaketus

There's no place for them. I really hope people don't buy big publisher early access games. It's meant for indie devs to fund their games. Not selling you big ass games at unfinished state.

bloody-hell
bloody-hell

Early Access in itself is great, it gives gamers that see potential in a game the possibility to participate in its development process and see it mature over time.

When developers, take community feedback into consideration when developing it, this is even more awesome and pretty much the whole point of it.


UbiSoft, EA, Activision and others however are already on a lot of people's shit-list because of their attitude, arrogance, separate DRM requirement, separate account registration requirement, no mod support or community involvement and so on.

It would be interesting if they'd actually understand Early Access but I think it's just them, exploring a new way of selling unfinished games and replacing "Preorder Now" with "Get it on Early Access" and then throwing their hands up in the air going "well, it's still in development and you paid for it, derp".

That and them wanting a slice of Steam's 75 million users, perhaps this is also the reason of starting with a free to play title that has microtransactions and their own separate account requirement.


There is absolutely nothing wrong with Early Access in itself, but I see "AAA" studios abusing it by taking the money and than abandoning the project unfinished and starting the next one.

It is however the customer that decides whether that's ok for him or not and not to blindly trust the "planned features" list, expecting it to become what they want it to.

mav_destroyer
mav_destroyer

Early Access is a way for indie developers to be able to fund the rest of their game! It's not meant to be used by big publishers who already have complete funding for AAA games. Is it not enough that publishers already ship incomplete games and make us pay extra for DLC? Now they want even the initial release of the game to be half-assed? Screw this.

archav3n
archav3n

AAA publishers should't bring to early access. It's for supporting indie developers in continuing development of potential titles. It's like testing water for Ubi here. If Ubi want more support, make it so i don't have to launch Steam when i'm using UPlay and vice versa (Don't launch UPlay when i'm playing via Steam).

gregrout
gregrout

Early Access really isn't as bad as people make it out to be. The part that baffles me are the people that complain about it. It just doesn't make sense. If you were forced with a gun to your head to purchase an early access alpha that might justify it. Otherwise, keep your money safe in your pocket. We do the exact same thing with released games. If it's a crappy fully released game we don't buy it. If the price is outrageously high, don't buy it. It's not rocket science here. If someone wants to spend their money on an Early Access game no matter how good or bad the game is, that's their business, NOT yours. If you can't afford the price of an Early Access game, find something else. There's nothing to be accomplished by hitting the forums and whining about it.       

Stepn2myworld
Stepn2myworld

@gregrout Why is expressing one's negative opinion, as you are doing here, considering whining? If so, how should we describe your positive opinion on early access? 


Some good ideas set bad trends for others to follow because of its success. Imagine Call of Duty early access. Buy the unfinished game now for $59.99 and get it on release day, i.e., the new and improved pre-order system.  



gregrout
gregrout

@Stepn2myworld I don't understand what this "bad trend" is. Nothing has changed. Every game developer goes through these stages. In the past this was all done behind closed doors. In a lot of cases developers had to guess at what they would add or change. This was very hit and miss. When you use Early Access you open up the process. It allows for direct input from players that have invested in the game financially instead on depending on the hit and miss of half interested beta testers. That's just the beginning, this is a huge boon for indie developers. You look at the greenlight program and I can guarantee you that 85% or more of the games there would never see the light of day without this program. I look at DayZ, a great mod, sold over million through Early Access in a month. If this was done privately, we'd get their best effort, thanks to Early Access the revenue generated will amplify their resources and open up numerous opportunities to implement gameplay options that would never have been financially possible behind traditional closed doors development. The best part is that this is all voluntary. Ubisoft released Ghost Recon Online, I've downloaded FREE. If CoD wants to jump onboard let them. I'm sure CoD Ghosts would have done better if they had used Early Access. Instead they focused on closed betas and eyeballed everything BF4 was doing. What we got was an inferior (compared to other CoD releases) product.     

Stepn2myworld
Stepn2myworld

@gregrout The bad trend is paying for an unfinished game. That has changed and is becoming acceptable. So much so that Gamespot did a feature on what are the best early access games. Lets call early access games what they are: Incomplete.


You say early access opens up the development process, allowing for direct input from those that have invested financially in the game. This statement suggests development for/by the community at large, meaning those who have purchased early access.  I say, a developer has a vision of what they want a game to be regardless of input from the community. Witness, Simcity Societies and Simcity by Maxis/EA.  No Simcity community wanted either of those Simcity titles as presented. Your statement suggests that early access could have persuaded Maxis/EA to change what they wanted the game to be. 


You say early access is great for indie developers because it provides financial resources that might not otherwise be available. While this is true, it does not change the fact that the game is incomplete. Who pays full price for a incomplete game? Planetary Annihilation for $59.99, Divinity Original Sin for $39.99, and Assetto Corsa, also for $39.99?  Not me! Sure there are less expensive games offering early access; however, this discussion centers around AAA publishers trying to leverage the obvious advantages of early access, cash in exchange for watching the game evolve and submitting input. If early access becomes commonplace, beta testing is history. Why would pay beta-testers when you have people who paid you to essentially do the same thing. 


An AAA publisher WILL NEVER get my money for early access. I'll see it at the finish line when it is complete and wait for multiple reviews, user and media, before I throw my hard earned cash at it. For those that engage in early access, enjoy.



gregrout
gregrout

@Stepn2myworld Your absolutely correct. But this doesn't constitute a "bad" thing. I'm not seeing the "bad" part. You've clearly stated that you wouldn't buy an AAA publisher for Early Access. That one of the GOOD things about Early Access. I kind of see your concern that games may stay in a permanent state of Early Access "excusing" the developer of finishing the game. This is possible, it wouldn't be the first time a game went to market unfinished with or without Early Access. By the same token, there are developers that released games and continued to support these games long afterwards (e.g. Halflife, Unreal Tournament). If we honestly take a step back and look at the state of the market place it's pretty much backwards. The gamer that supports the developer by buying the game in Early Access is most likely to be ripped off (least bang for the buck), The most rewarded gamer is the one that doesn't support the developer at all. This gamer will walk away with the same game, patched up and all DLC at a greatly reduced price in an "Ultimate" / "GOTY" edition. So I would agree whole-heartedly that Direct Access is probably the riskiest way to purchase a game. If I had to pick the worst state to purchase a game in, I personally see the pre-order filling that role. Typically the state of the game is only known to a few. The rewards tend to be more than cosmetic, greatly effecting the gameplay and the reviews are no-where to be found.  

acemono
acemono

I don’t buy early access games and preorders, I can understand small gaming developers with little funding doing early access so they can finish their games. But AAA companies that makes billions and is controlled by their stock holders, which want the money now I will not trust. I will wait for all the suckers that fall for their scams, to fix the game and laugh at all there whining when there saves and game play get messed up. For supporting greedy companies, to make it funnier if the game gets the axe and they drop the project after suckers pay for early access.

nedrith
nedrith

I hate this practice, it's even worse than F2P MMOs in "open beta" accepting money through their cash shop.  As soon as people are paying to play a game it is no longer beta or alpha, you have released the game.  the beta or early access title is just a excuse for any bugs.


I'm guessing that we can consider any buggy game that was released and then patched post release to just be a beta now.


This is just another excuse for a company to rush a game to release.  "Hey guys this game isn't finished but let's release it anyways.  It's still buggy but we'll just call it a beta and put it up on early access".



lonewolf1044
lonewolf1044

This is the trend now and some of those companies see there is money to made. We the consumer need to be careful investing in Early Access games because if the publisher pulls out there might not be no refund.

Lausanna
Lausanna

@lonewolf1044 Agreed. I'll support the odd indie developer for a promising title but not some behemoth AAA publisher that already has a budget and is just milking the trend.

jedediahpelland
jedediahpelland

I actually think this is a good idea, they should offer the game at a discounted price when it is in alpha, then maybe raise it a bit when in beta, then of course full price upon release. People who choose to buy the game in alpha or beta will get the game cheaper and be able to give feedback to help the developers release a polished product. This could lead to the end of buggy releases or releases with flawed mechanics and gameplay. Also players may even end up suggesting ideas that the developer had not thought of and adding them into the game. Overall I think this will lead to releases that the gamers want.

nurnberg
nurnberg

Thank you dumb PC fanboys.  After encouraging DLC and micro-transactions to become widespread, you are now encouraging the practice of games released in an alpha state.  Thanks for ruining gaming for all of us.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@nurnberg 

So says you who do not realize that publishers had been packaging beta access codes within the package of other released games for the console platforms. :/

pyro1245
pyro1245

@nurnberg Microsoft first popularized microtransactions on the 360 store. Then everyone else jumped in. But the idea goes back way further than that. Back to Sega.

AyatollaofRnR
AyatollaofRnR

BF4 was released as early access as well. They just didn't tell anybody.

abcdefgabcdefgz
abcdefgabcdefgz

Awesome now we get to pay to beta test games! Gaming just keeps on improving maybe EA can lead the way with the next battlefield or madden. Someday people will learn to not waste money and then gaming will get back to being good.

Toysoldier34
Toysoldier34

Isn't EA doing the same thing with their games already?


SimCity and Battlefield 4 Early Access through Origin, show your support to fund the completion of the game and DLC.

pyro1245
pyro1245

does that mean they would have to listen to fans if they said "hey you game isn't finished yet, you can;t release it like that"? probably not.

hadlee73
hadlee73

Looks like an easy way to try and get off the hook for releasing unfinished games. 

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

"This point can't be emphasized enough. Steam treats Early Access games like finished products and you should, too. You should assume that the Early Access title you're considering won't get any better than it currently is. Many of these games are being created by proven studios and will improve over time. There are bound to be a few projects out there, though, that promise you everything but never deliver. If you're not comfortable with that risk, don't spend your money because you won't be able to get it back."

http://www.cinemablend.com/games/Valve-Refunds-Steam-Early-Access-Game-Cancelled-61623.html

Grimkillah
Grimkillah

Old news , Battlefield 4 early access has been around for awhile.

TheWatcher000
TheWatcher000

Now EA, Activision, and UBISuck will have an all new way to abuse gamers.


How wonderful.

northArrow
northArrow

@TheWatcher000Yup, "early access" is all the justification they need to release unfinished games. I can't wait to play more alpha versions of the games I love!

19James89
19James89

I cannot wait to become a fully fledged member of the Steam revolution.

Redblaze27
Redblaze27

At least they are pulling it on a free to play title, it they do this with the next Assassins Creed, Rayman, Splinter Cell or Watch Dogs, this wouldn't go very well with consumers.

obsequies
obsequies

ok here it comes. Just like in app purchases

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

This frees developers from the grips of Publishers. It's a good thing. The people will now decide where gaming goes. 

It's basically Kickstarter on steroids.

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

This will make games better. The money that they would otherwise spend on beta testers they can save. And some members of our gaming community can do it, if they so choose. And if they make a buck from that so be it. They could pump that back into the game as well. More money will go into the development side of things.

Plus, I trust our community of gamers to do a better job of testing.

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

@GSGuy321I wish I had your optimism... Your way will work for about a year before they start abusing it. I highly doubt they'll put more money into the game this way, they'll just pocket the cash and laugh as they sell you an unfinished product. 

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

@---Cipher---@GSGuy321They'll destroy themselves then. Your reputation is all you have if the people. The power is in the people's hands now. It's better this way. Good riddance to the Publishers like EA. They were destroying gaming anyway.

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

@GSGuy321 Your right, your reputation is all you have. Yet Rome 2 still sold very well. EA still sells tons. Ubisoft still sells. Blizzard still sells. Activision still sells. 

EA isn't going anywhere. Look at Deadspace 3. A full priced game that sold well AND they sold microtransactions with it. Look at Diablo 3. That game destroyed the series in more than a few eyes, yet it still sold insanely well. SimCity too.

This will just be abused like DLC/patches/microtransactions/etc. It'll juts put more money into EA's pocket instead of taking it away from EA.

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

@---Cipher---@GSGuy321 It's okay if EA makes money, but it's the market that has to decide whether they do. That's what this does. Opens up the market. 

You can already see the changes. EA themselves have admitted SimCity was a fiasco and is bringing in an offline mode. Rome 2 just came out with modding tools. These are demands that are coming from the people. As more openness and competition arrives they will have to listen more and more to the consumers. 

The way it was before, developers needed Publsihers. Hence lack of competition. Gaming was getting stale. And begginging to die. 

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

@GSGuy321 This article highlights the AAA publishers (of which EA is a member) wanting to get in on the action though. Letting them join the "early access" club leads to more competition, true, but EA/UbiSoft/etc have enough weight to abuse the system and push out other smaller developers who actually need the system. The more the early-access system is abused, the less likely people will be willing to support it, so if EA abuses it, money will be taken away from smaller developers. I used to love the idea of "early access" too, but then I noticed a few bad games pop up on it being abused and now I realize that it is just a matter of time before this is begging to die too.

Think of the "War Z" defense. They will never have to actually release a game they sold since, no game is ever truely finished. I have no doubt this will be abused. release a patch every year and say it's still in development. Make money and F the consumer.

This has the "potential" to do good, but so did DLC/patching.

Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

Agree with GSGuy.

This article is a good example. As a publisher I simply don't trust Ubi. If I'm going to pay anything to them for a game, the community will have to prove it out for me first.

This allows that process to begin at an earlier stage, and you can monitor whether problems are being handled, etc.

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

@---Cipher---@GSGuy321Good points and I hear ya. But the potential for abuses should not deter us from opening things up. 

Review sites will need to start getting in on the Early Access does and donts. I think Gamespot has already started on that end.

If a company screws us in Early Access (and it will happen I agree) you can be sure they will lose a lot in reputation. And with the added competition and choice that will mean they will eventually doom themselves. 

The way it is now a few Publishers are controlling the whole market.

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

Who says you have to pay ? Is there a gun to your head. 

Plus Ubi is offering it up for free. This time anyway.

Barighm
Barighm

@GSGuy321But that attitude doesn't work anymore. No, we're not buying these games, but SOMEONE is. Unfortunately, a whole lot of "someone's" and now more and more games are being designed for these people. Gaming is getting expensive and yet the quality is getting lower and lower. Telling people not to pay for stuff they don't want just isn't working. We need to try something else.

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

@Barighm@GSGuy321 But the market should determine that. I prefer that over the big Publishers controlling everything how it is now. Gaming has been dying for years now from the inside out. Same games year after year with no innovation. Early Access allows developers to take a chance. Less reliance on Publishers idiotic demands.