Early Access Success: Jalopy

Today, my news feed updated me with something I hadn’t really expected. Jalopy, an indie game I have been following for years now, was finally going to come out of “Steam Early Access” and release its 1.0 build. For those unfamiliar the concept, Early Access is a category of games available on Steam that are still under development, but open to those interested in purchasing them. In effect, by buying an early access game you are buying a game that is incomplete (bugs and all), with the developer’s promise that the game will be complete one day and will meet your expectations.

This sounds risky, and it is. There’s countless examples of Early Access games fading into oblivion, leaving those who bought them upset that they paid money and never got the full experience, but for those like Jalopy that do make it to the finish line, the road there is lined with droves of software patches and modifications as the developers inch their way to a 1.0 build. What made this update interesting to me, however, was the post the developers made to announce their upcoming release, because within that post, they explained how it was that they, alongside suggestions from the community, built the game into what it is now.

Early buyers reported crashes, offered suggestions, and in many ways helped enhance what was originally a good idea on the developer’s part into a game that best met everyone’s wishes. Ideas for cosmetic modifications, upgrades, and new mechanics all came from interactions between the developers and the players, and although there were several ideas that had to be left by the wayside, the final build contains plenty of content that wasn’t even planned for when the game was first proposed. Altogether, this got me to think about whether this already widespread process would grow to be the future of most video games. Rather than games being built and tested behind closed doors, what if more games came to be inspired by a developer, but created alongside the population of players that want it? Would this even work on a larger scale, or would this only be limited to indie games that demand less resources? What does this kind of development mean for games as a whole?

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