It would seem the NBI talkback#2 is about Early Access and Kickstarter. This is a rather interesting topic to me, in particular in today’s free to play world and day 2 patches.
I’ll start with the second one, Kickstarter. I think we’re over the honeymoon phase and people are realizing that backing something is just like any other investment; you might not get a return. When it started, everyone was on a high since they were backing a for sure promise of delivery. Sorry! There’s a pretty good reason big Kickstarters failed – horrible project and client management. Either they got the money and had no idea how to spend it, or the concept was so poorly managed everyone thought it was bonkers (Hi Brad!). There are good things that have come from it though, mostly board games and card games. A few video games have succeeded, Pillars of Eternity being one of the obvious ones. There are good ideas out there and Kickstarter is a neat way to see them come to life (maybe).
Early Access is plain ol’ dumb, from both a client and development perspective. The benefits are pretty small. Sure, you get valuable feedback for a few weeks, maybe a couple months from dedicated folks. You need to spend less time triaging beta test applications. There’s some good word of mouth that occurs, if the product is polished enough. There’s some extra money to get through dev cycles. That’s the good stuff.
The bad stuff is about expectations. Once someone pays for a product, no matter the state, they expect some level of service. A buggy game that stays buggy for weeks/months, loses all steam. A game with no community involvement dies a slow death. The biggest champions for the game are selling the concept to their friends who may buy a broken game. By the time launch comes around, nearly everyone has moved on.
If the period is short, then there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. But a short period means that the game is in polish mode, not dev mode. Neverwinter and Marvel Heroes are two recent games that went this route, even Heroes of the Storm in their own way. As soon as the cash store opens, or that I’ve bought in, I consider the game live. It takes something to get people to come back once the marketing team actually decides to “go live”. I remember the HotS beta invite, costing $50 to get it. It was a simple “are you kidding me” decision.
Landmark is a prime example of how not to do Early Access. When that opened up over a year ago (!) there were blog posts everywhere. People dropped $100+ dollars to be in a beta that lasted a year. The game has moved at a snail’s pace (if the snail was dead) and still doesn’t have a launch date. Heck, the devs had to remind people the game was still around. All the positive buzz for that game is gone and everyone who was interested has moved on to something else. It just seems a wasted opportunity.