Valve’s Very Specific Early Access Guidelines


In response to Early Access issues and misconceptions, Valve has sensibly updated Steam’s Early Access guidelines.

Early Access is a pretty popular way for developers to get people to play their games, getting feedback and bug reports from players as they go. It’s a risky setup that’s either going to succeed or fail, and that depends on time, money, dedication, and most importantly, player reception.

Unfortunately, despite its popularity, only 25% of Early Access games have released as full titles. That’s not exactly a good number, and unfortunately presents itself as a broken promise to those who paid for the game with the intention of helping it grow. You’ve got game developers with big dreams, but unfortunately, big dreams often hit a kink in the line once they’re far enough along. The trick is to work out the kink and move forward – which can be difficult to do in the gaming industry.


Valve’s newly updated guidelines remind both developers and consumers that what’s being presented is in no way a finished product. One of the main additions to the guidelines asks developers not to make “specific promises about future events.” It’s a reasonable request – it keeps them from shooting themselves in the foot after promising a feature or two and then having to get rid of that feature later on.

Another stipulation for Early Access devs is not to fluctuate prices between services and websites. “We expect Steam customers to get a price for the Early Access game no higher than they are offered on any other service or website,” Steam explained in the FAQ.

Obviously having noticed the amount of developers ending up with trainwrecks, Valve also added the following:

  • Don’t launch in Early Access if you can’t afford to develop with very few or no sales.
  • Make sure you set expectations properly everywhere you talk about your game.
  • Don’t launch in Early Access without a playable game.
  • Don’t launch in Early Access if you are done with development.

Essentially, all Valve is asking is for developers to be smart about what they’re doing and for consumers to recognize that a game isn’t guaranteed to be fully released no matter how much money they sink into it. Failure is always a possibility, and even if you think you have the best concept in the world, there’s still a chance for it to flop.

That doesn’t mean you should get discouraged, though. Just be smart about it, and you’ll do fine. (As long as it’s not another Goat Simulator.)



About Deborah Crocker

Deborah is a 22 year old semi-hermit currently plodding through her senior year of college and getting her feet wet in game journalism. She has a somewhat unhealthy obsession with high fantasy, video games, novels, and Elder Scrolls. When she's not in front of a screen, she enjoys singing and a bit of beading. She's also currently on the hunt for the restaurant with the best cheeseburger.

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