Valve are going to be clamping down on the rules for Early Access games to prevent scams and blunders such as those that we've seen in the past.
They will be giving developers tighter restrictions on how they are able to market their unfinished products to potential users.
The changes to the rules and guidelines aren't publicly available to the public but thanks to Giant Bomb we can get a good idea on what they may be.
Earth: Year 2066 was removed from Early Access recently after fans spoke out, and Valve removed the game on the basis that the marketing of the game wasn't true to the promises and quality of the game. All customers of the game were also given the option to gain a full refund.
Early Access has given many companies the opportunity to present their game to the public before it has released and let the fans shape the face of the game as it moves through its development stages. There have been many successful games throughout the program but there are still quite a few that end up abandoned.
We also learned earlier this week that only 25% of games on the Early Access have actually released.
Valve are now asking that developers make sure that their pitches are clearer, and that the game is not the final product.
We work really hard to make sure that customers understand what they are buying when they get an Early Access title on Steam. But we've seen that many of these titles are sold as keys on other websites where there is no explanation of what Early Access is or what the current state of your product is now versus what you hope to achieve.
They are also being warned not to promise about specific future events meaning that the main marketing of the game can't revolve around them.
For example, there is no way you can know exactly when the game will be finished, that the game will be finished, or that planned future additions will definitely happen. Do not ask your customers to bet on the future of your game. Customers should be buying your game based on its current state, not on promises of a future that may or may not be realized.
The section below is the key points of the new rules and guidelines that Valve has released to developers. Once again, thanks to Giant Bomb.
Don’t launch in Early Access if you can’t afford to develop with very few or no sales.
There is no guarantee that your game will sell as many units as you anticipate. If you are counting on selling a specific number of units to survive and complete your game, then you need to think carefully about what it would mean for you or your team if you don't sell that many units. Are you willing to continue developing the game without any sales? Are you willing to seek other forms of investment?
Make sure you set expectations properly everywhere you talk about your game.
For example, if you know your updates during Early Access will break save files or make the customer start over with building something, make sure you say that up front. And say this everywhere you sell your Steam keys.
Don't launch in Early Access without a playable game.
If you have a tech demo, but not much gameplay yet, then it’s probably too early to launch in Early Access. If you are trying to test out a concept and haven't yet figured out what players are going to do in your game that makes it fun, then it's probably too early. You might want to start by giving out keys to select fans and getting input from a smaller and focused group of users before you post your title to Early Access. At a bare minimum, you will need a video that shows in-game gameplay of what it looks like to play the game. Even if you are asking customers for feedback on changing the gameplay, customers need something to start with in order to give informed feedback and suggestions.
Don't launch in Early Access if you are done with development.
If you have all your gameplay defined already and are just looking for final bug testing, then Early Access isn’t the right place for that. You’ll probably just want to send out some keys to fans or do more internal playtesting. Early Access is intended as a place where customers can have impact on the game.
It was about time that Valve clamped down on Early Access titles as the store has been flooded with games that aren't up to par the past year and a lot of customers are being burned because of it.
What do you guys think to the whole ordeal though? Are you completely against Early Access or can you see the benefits to developers?