Up For Debate - Should Early Access Games Such as PUBG Be Reviewed With a Score?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sun, Sep 10, 2017 5:00 PM
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We think it’s time for a rethink of how Early Access games are handled. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has sold more than 10 million copies, $300m in revenue, and yet a quick shuffle over to Metacritic reveals there isn’t a single review. Fortunately, PUBG is a fantastic game, so that $300m has been wisely spent, but this isn’t the case with every Early Access game. For every PUBG there seems to be a dozen broken messes, none of which have been held accountable from a critical perspective.

It just seems crazy to me that publishers and developers can put a price on a game, sell it to millions, and yet the status quo dictates that the game can’t be scored because it isn’t finished yet. Here’s the newsflash: most games that come out aren’t finished either, and yet we’re quite content to score them.

We’ve been mulling over changing our approach to Early Access games for a while now, but it was in part triggered when reading on a gaming news site that PUBG had managed to sell 10 million copies, the most impressive part being that “it’s not even out yet.” That’s an incredible misnomer that I think we’re all guilty of falling for, much like PlayStation Plus games being ‘free’. PUBG is categorically out. It’s right there on Steam for people to buy and play.

So the changes to how we look at Early Access games start with the potential to begin scoring them, or at least adopting some sort of badging system that can help identify what players are getting themselves into. Is it a broken mess? Is it largely content complete? Does it have a single-player campaign yet? Is it worth the money or should you want until the full launch? This still raises the specter of whether customers think it’s fair to review an unfinished game, or indeed if there’s any value in attaching a score to something which is going to drastically change over time. All valid points, but I believe the current norm of withholding a verdict on an Early Access product is anti-consumer. Publishers can’t have their cake and eat it. Sell any product and it becomes worthy of criticism. Early Access is a shield which too many hide behind.

This all only going to become a more prominent issue in the years to come, Early Access steadily becoming the norm rather than the exception. From a developer point of view, why hold back from releasing early if people are willing to pay to test your game? Interest can be constantly generated with updates for months or even years, keeping a game consistently in the limelight rather than launching complete, burning bright and then fading away completely. That’s not to say Early Access is bad for the end user. It lets us play games earlier, even help shape their development. But I don’t think being incomplete should make them immune from criticism.

In opening this up to the GD community I was hoping to hear your thoughts on whether, and indeed how, Early Access games should be scored. Could the traditional 10-point scale work? Or should there be some other system to gauge the quality of an unfinished game, whether that’s a predicted score at launch, a badge system, a bugginess rating or anything else you wise bunch can think of? Let us know your thoughts below!

Is it fair to review Early Access games?

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13:56 Sep-11-2017

I want to add my final thoughts on this subject. Reviews are ok, but don't buy a game based solely on them. See for yourself and then decide.


In short, the choice is yours. Never forget that.

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13:11 Sep-11-2017

As soon as a publisher charges money for a product, beta, early access or otherwise, it forfeits every right to not be reviewed as just another commercial product. Reviews should make EA/beta status obvious and be updated accordingly.

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09:57 Sep-11-2017

Yes, a temporary score until the game releases

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09:31 Sep-11-2017

I personally don't reed game reviews that much. I would just read the description of a game (what's it about), and watch 1 or 2 short trailers maybe a gameplay video. I don't go beyond that because that ruins the game for me.
Since I don't buy/play a game when it released (usually a few month pass buy before I buy it), the game will either be in a playable state or not. I do however read other ppl comments about bugs in the game, and if they say it's clear I'm done with my decision.

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06:08 Sep-11-2017

Maybe add a letter or two to the rating to indicate the game is early access. I'm not sure what letters though, since putting EA in the rating may be confusing.

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02:55 Sep-11-2017

I feel like at this point a score or so is pointless. There are millions of YouTube videos, which one may watch, focused just on this game that show how the game works and how it plays on different PCs.

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23:29 Sep-10-2017

Damn i love this site &#603

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20:25 Sep-10-2017

MMR means nothing. Dota 2 players will understand. Some people might like this game some might note. But if we review for something i would prefer how the game performs in dif PCs

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20:10 Sep-10-2017

Definitely. Everyone should have the option to read reviews of a game they are about to buy, regardless of it being in Early Access or not. If you pay for it, you deserve to know if it works properly or not. While I dont think the review must have a score of some sort, a comprehensive review of the status of the game is mandatory in my opinion.

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20:04 Sep-10-2017

A score can be very useful if someone is looking in general for good games. A score means nothing at the end, in fact if someone's interested, he will read something or watch something about the game. Definetly a score is helpful, but a written review is mandatory.

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19:10 Sep-10-2017

I agree with what pretty much all people voted, as soon as you give people access to the game it should be reviewed and judged, but if it is in an incomplete stage it should be reviewed again with every major patch/update.

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18:24 Sep-10-2017

I see no reason not to score early access games with reviews, however total score should be split between current version only and older versions. Because older versions don't reflect current state of the game, due to it being in development and might have been much worse on ealy access release.

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18:26 Sep-10-2017

Also post release score should be given clean slate, with optional overview of early access score based on patch, like in graph, so buyer can evaluate their purchase based on that, but game not being held back because rough start. ESO is good example of the game becoming better after rough start,and it is not only one.

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17:34 Sep-10-2017

No games should be reviewed with a score. It's stupid to review games like fifa and dark souls by the same scale.

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17:16 Sep-10-2017

I have a problem with most hardware/gaming reviews now a days. They stop their reviews after release day and then nothing happens, games are hardly NOT patched anymore. For example, CMS 18 (car mechanic simulator) was a total mess at launch, the devs patched it DAILY and now its no where near as buggy as it was but still carries a mixed review on steam.

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09:18 Sep-11-2017

It's a fair point, although the problem here is resources. There are thousands of new games a new, most sites review hundreds. Then to keep up with them pre and post launch requires a lot of man hours. It would be nice, but I think the onus is on devs (and pubs) to make a product they are prepared to have reviewed once it launches (whether normal or Early Access).

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11:22 Sep-11-2017

Oh yea i agree completely it's why in a way it's totally flawed. I'll read some reviews then purchase a game if it's something i really want. If the reviews are mixed it makes me reconsider, but its the case with CMS18. I bought it a couple days after laucnh (got a coupon from steam since i own 15) and it was quite buggy. It's add probably 30 or so patches in the last 2 weeks but steam reviews are still mixed even though the game is AMAZING. Needs a vega 64 to run high though lol.

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