Steam Could Learn A Thing Or Two From GOG’s New Early Access Program

Illustration for article titled Steam Could Learn A Thing Or Two From GOG’s New Early Access Program
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DRM-free gaming service GOG is introducing its own take on Early Access. Thanks to things like strict curation, a version rollback feature, and generous refunds, I’m super into it. I hope Valve is taking notes.


The three pillars of GOG’s Early Access program (functionally but not-so-creatively titled “Games In Development”) sound like a brilliant way to cut down on exploitation of a system where people pay for games long before they’re “finished.” Here’s how GOG explains them:

“First and foremost: we’re hand-picking only the games we can truly stand behind. Offering a selection of the most promising titles, and those most highly requested on the Community Wishlist, is our way of avoiding bloat and ensuring that every game will be worth your time.”

“It takes some confidence to discover games that are still being shaped — and to build that trust, every game in development comes with a simple refund policy: 14 days, no questions asked. It doesn’t matter if you’re having technical issues, if you don’t think the game is sufficiently fleshed out, or if it simply doesn’t click with you — all games in development can be returned for any reason within 14 days of purchase.”

“The GOG Galaxy client should also come in handy for games in development. It lets you control updates manually if you want, while the rollback feature allows you to easily restore any earlier version of your game if an update breaks something or makes unwanted changes. For games in development, rollback will also track and create historical snapshots throughout a game’s development. That means you can always revisit any point in a game’s history — for fun, or for science.


Good job, GOG. Slow and steady may not win the race, but it certainly results in a supplementary service with some damn well-considered features.

I really do wish Valve would implement some of this stuff with Steam Early Access. As it stands, the system’s standards are far too lax, allowing for projects that either a) start out terrible and end up terrible or b) never really go anywhere. It’s a crapshoot. Steam’s own refund system has recently massaged away some of the pain, but it doesn’t clear up general store clutter or keep shady games from worming their way into people’s lives.

The version rollback idea, meanwhile, is just great on so many levels. Don’t like a new feature or balance change? Fuck it. Play an older version while the developers un-fuck it. I’m not sure how that’ll work with multiplayer games, but still. The idea of being able to revisit pivotal moments in a game’s development history also appeals to me in that way where I think, “Whoa, that should be a thing in every video game, even though I’ll probably almost never use it.”

This is all great. I hope Valve tweaks Steam Early Access to be similar sooner rather than later. The rollback thing I could actually see happening. The curation stuff, not so much. In the meantime, this is a nice reminder that I should really use GOG more often.


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What gets me the most about Steam is they’re literally covered in games that have long since been abandoned that should be cleared out - if only to prevent further exploitation.

The only other thing I would ask of an Early Access system is a way to force accountability; if a company like Steam is taking on the task of distribution for these games, I would personally want 2 things:

1. Guarantees of regular updates showing actual, tangible progress on getting a shipable game.

2. Enforceable penalties; I don’t care if it is as simple as having biographical data on everyone involved in the project putting their own, personal credit on the line or going so far as to REQUIRE financial accountability before releasing sales proceeds to the developers, I’m tired of people being able to ‘spend all the money and slip away’, leaving an empty shell company behind.

It wouldn’t be too far fetched to require that these companies carry some form of insurance that would cover losses should, say, they be legally required to refund their sales and are currently bankrupt.