If you've ever wanted to get your hands on a game before it's completely finished, taking a look behind the scenes and snooping around the development cycle, Valve has a bit of a treat for you. The brand new Early Access section, added today to Steam, will give you exactly what you want.
The new section has been designed to allow gamers to "get involved early", playing games before they're ready to hit the big time. Fans are able to check out the development cycle first hand, and even interact with the developers, offering feedback while the game is still in its earliest stages.
This is the sort of arrangement that's ideal for Steam, which offers easy, automatic game updates, so developers can quickly respond (directly!) to bug reports and customer feedback.
A lot of games are already operating as ongoing services that grow and evolve with the involvement of customers and the community. Greenlight helped us raise awareness for Kinetic Void, and now Steam Early Access will let us continue the development of our game while gathering crucial feedback, input and support from the Steam Community.
Of course, Early Access won't be granted to every title on Steam, but the list of first titles is already looking pretty healthy:
All you need to do is pick up a copy of the game you like, and get involved! Early Access is not the same as pre-purchasing a game, of course. Instead, you are purchasing a playable game, given immediate download access, and able to offer feedback and commentary.
For more information, there is of course a nifty FAQ, which explains "this is the way games should be made".
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Jimmy the Geek