The Steam Summer Sale is something akin to Christmas-come-early for PC gamers, as it’s the perfect time to snatch up that title you’ve been considering for a truly attractive price. This year’s installment has come under fire, however, as the rise in popularity of the early access model has seen some of these titles have invariably found their way into the sale. One title in particular has attracted increased ire: DayZ.
While this is hardly the first instance of Steam offering early access titles at discounted prices during their biannual sale, the circumstances surrounding the given game have been the cause of contention. Ever since the release of the standalone’s alpha, creator Dean Hall has been outspoken in warning gamers that DayZ is very much a work-in-progress, going so far as to call early access a “recipe for disaster.” As such, they should be aware of the risks involved in buying into the project.
This is most evident in the way that Hall insists on keeping the price tag higher in order to discourage impulse buys – and ward off players who are not invested in taking part in its development cycle. For this reason, it is particularly odd that the title found its way onto the front page of Steam on June 19, 2014 for the first day of the Summer Sale clocking in at 15% off. Understandably, quite a few gamers took exception to this choice, Hall included.
Please don't contact me about why DayZ went on sale. I am as clueless and shocked as everyone else.— Dean Hall (@rocket2guns) June 19, 2014
Considering his role as DayZ‘s creator, it would be expected that Dean Hall would have some say in the game’s sale status or at the very least be aware of the choices being made regarding it. Judging by a recent tweet of his and comment on the game’s subreddit, it looks as though he has been left out of the loop.
I cannot answer any questions about the Steam sale. That is a corporate thing, outside my wheel house.— Brian Hicks (@Hicks_206) June 19, 2014
The game’s producer – Brian Hicks – made a similar statement on Twitter, expressing the evident disconnect between developer and producer in this debacle. If this is the case, and those closest to the development were left out in the cold, what does this say of their connection to publisher and development company Bohemia Interactive? Having opted to turn the successful mod into an equally-successful standalone title, you’d think that they’d have the faith in Hall to confide in him regarding key decisions like sale releases, particularly when this goes against his initial vision.
Dean Hall has previously been outspoken regarding his hesitance towards early access titles and this is not likely to help its perception. Looking beyond the publishing subterfuge, the real issue that many are beginning to point out is the danger of including unfinished titles like DayZ and Kerbal Space Program in a sale environment alongside finished products. While there are many gamers who are aware of the risks inherent with early access releases, the average gamer is unlikely to question this term until faced with the freshly-installed-but-incomplete title.
There’s no denying that DayZ and similar early access titles are enjoyable experiences provided expectations are tempered – its sales figures prove this – but when platforms like Steam begin placing them on similar footing to complete titles, a dangerous precedent is being set. What Dean Hall is experiencing is a development nightmare in and of itself, but the implications of selling unfinished products alongside finished ones during such a high-profile sale is something that could serve to hurt the industry if not handled delicately.
Do you think there should be better and more visible regulation of unfinished products on services like Steam? Should these titles even be included in high-profile sales like the Steam Summer Sale?
Follow Ryan on Twitter @ThatRyanB.