Early Access is a growing phenomenon in gaming that’s easier said than done. While Early Access programs can offer several potential benefits to gamers and game developers, they often result in disappointment for both due to mismanaged expectations and execution. But in the startup world, well-managed community engagement initiatives are standard practice for companies ready to scale. Dave Nemetz—co-founder of Inverse and Bleacher Report—shares his playbook for ways game studios can optimize their Early Access programs while giving back true ownership to player-participants.
Gaming is dominated by triple-A blockbusters, but innovations in storytelling and gameplay often emerge from the work of indie developers. Without big studio budgets to fall back on, these small teams and solo creators boil down the process down to the essential of what makes their project unique. Wielding a diverse set of tools such as Unity, Kickstarter, and Discord, these developer Jacks-of-all-trades understand that community engagement isn’t a nice-to-have, but necessary for the game’s survival. Jyro Blade, game developer and member of the NYC-based Gumbo Collective, dives into the aspects of community development and engagement that are critical to the development and success of an indie game.
Early community inclusion can make games more fun for the players—and is a fantastic reality check for developers on what works and what doesn’t. Continuing the exploration of the Early Access phenomenon in gaming, producer Kristina Rothe recommends that in order to get the most out of Early Access programs, game marketers establish a framework for ongoing collaboration with the community, starting with a clear vision of the program’s goals and following time-tested practices that develop mutually beneficial relationships between developers and the community.