In an interview with Gamasutra, VP of developer and publisher relations Adam Boyes commented on the possibility of a Steam-style Early Access program heading to the Playstation 4. He seemed excited at the idea, saying that he thought about and discussed it with his team often. However, there was some concern about how the program would work, how early in development a game could be released, and how consumers might react to purchasing unfinished games.
Honestly, we’re working through [Early Access] right now. We’re figuring out what’s ok
Boyes was first asked about how early a game could be released on the Playstation Network, and whether Sony was willing to sell alpha builds of games in a special area of the market. “That’s one of the massive conversations we have internally,” responded Boyes. “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. At the same time, I’m like you — I want to help bootstrap people, to bootstrap them, to help them out. Like supporting the underdog for a sports team.”
Casting Early Access games as the “underdog” has one issue, many are currently ruling the Steam Top Seller chart. “Which is amazing! That’s the thing — we live in a different world,” said Boyes. “There are different types of people. There people who always back games, enjoy Kickstarters, try things that they know aren’t finished but are willing to help make better. I remember playing Rust and laughing hysterically. And there were some things that weren’t finished, but I had a ton of fun. It was super intense.”
As far as when or how a Playstation Early Access Program might come together, Boyes seemed to have little firm information. “Honestly, we’re working through that right now,” assured Boyes. “We’re figuring out what’s ok. We obviously have our tech requirement checklist that people have to adhere to. So we’re internally discussing, what does that list look like this? What are the caveats? Stuff like this. So it’s still a project that a lot of minds are considering. No details yet, but it’s something on the top of my mind every day.”
Despite the current issues that I have with the Steam Early Access program, I feel that this is a promising development. The biggest problem with Steam’s version of the program is that there is little to no curation of the market. As long as the game comes from a known publisher, it can get up on the market without anyone from Steam checking to make sure it is worthy. Sony, and Microsoft for that matter, go through and run various tests on every game that hits their marketplaces.
Could a game like Earth: Year 2066, which was recently removed due to being completely broken, make it onto the Playstation Store? I doubt it. But something like DayZ or Kerbal Space Program, could make it since the games largely function, they are just missing some key features. This would help developers by getting their game to more people early on, giving them extra cash for development, and it would help gamers by giving them a wider breadth of content to choose from. Just as long as Sony doesn’t repeat Valve’s mistake and include Early Access games on the store right alongside full releases then this could turn out pretty great.