You probably wouldn’t buy an unfinished song or an unfinished movie, but there are plenty of people willing to buy unfinished games. This is called “early access”, and more and more companies are marketing their games this way instead of the traditional “it’s done when it’s done”.
Early access involves letting people buy into an unfinished game, usually during beta development and rarely during alpha. Sometimes there are perks to buying in early, special items or other benefits. Usually the only reward is getting to try something interesting ahead of time. These companies make it clear that their product is unfinished, and warn that it will likely have a lot of technical issues to deal with. Despite these cautioning words, these games don’t seem to have any problem selling. Survival games such as DayZ and Rust have been topping charts with over a million sales respectively, creating and expanding enormous fan bases over a brief few months.
Despite this success, many of those participating in early access games end up walking away from them. People quickly forget that the games they’re playing aren’t finished and get too frustrated to continue. No matter how polished the game may seem when presented, it’s still a work in progress and that scares some people away. Early access may be a risky plan for developers, but it’s good news for players that want a firsthand look at what could be the next big game. If early access sounds like something you might be interested in, these games are a good place to start:
Rust – A survival game with crafting aspects reminiscent of Minecraft, it features resource gathering, building wood sheds, and hilarious interactions with half-naked strangers holding rocks.
DayZ, Nether – Both are survival games pitting players against the environment and each other. DayZ currently features a much larger map and greater variety of interactions, while Nether has vastly superior gunplay and an unrivaled atmosphere of tension.
Starbound – A 16 bit side-scrolling space adventure game with a great sense of humor and an extensive crafting system.