Microsoft announced Xbox Game Preview – its own version of Steam’s Early Access Program – at E3 2015 earlier this year, but only indie titles have been implemented into it so far. The Xbox maker intends to bring early access to the console, while avoiding the issues facing Steam’s program, which includes bad games, a lack of curation, and shady developers.
Xbox Game Preview still has a bit of a ways to go before it becomes a trusted and natural part of the development process, but it’s progressing quickly enough. So much so that, according to Microsoft, the amount of attention and success it’s received so far has prompted them to make plans to add their first-party games in the future.
Speaking to Kotaku, Microsoft’s head of publishing Shannon Loftis stated that the company absolutely intends to bring their own games to the preview program – almost as if this was something they always had in mind.
“I can’t make any announcements about first-party games we’re going to put in Preview but typically at this point, given the way games development’s going, and the complexity of the systems, it is very important to us the consumer goes along with us the whole way.
“Game development itself has evolved in the last two, three, four years. It’s become far more community driven and far more incremental.”
It’s an understandable move to make, since fans are more than eager to play a game early – be it as part of an Alpha or Beta – and the early look gives developers another opportunity to incorporate feedback and make a better game. Loftis said as much, adding that this will be one way to “extend the beta experience and also support development a little in the process.”
Of course, there are some rules and expectations that must be adhered to by both the developer and the gamer. As Loftis explains, from the studio’s side of things, the preview build has to be devoid of crashes and unfinished code, and has to be in a state that allows the player to finish it. Early Access players, meanwhile, need to understand that many aspects of the game will be unfinished, including gameplay.
The part about being able to finish the early build is particularly interesting, as it implies that the games will have a definitive end or some kind of conclusion.
As far as content curation and avoiding untrustworthy devs, Microsoft has given some thought to this as well – a huge relief, considering those are two of the biggest criticisms against Steam Early Access. Xbox Game Preview will undoubtedly be compared to its PC counterpart, meaning Microsoft will have to take larger steps to avoid these known issues.
“I think that’s one of the reasons we want to make sure that we’re curating; we’re screening the developers as well as the games themselves. We’ve been very clear with developers and gamers both that this isn’t a viable means of funding development. You have to be able to actually finish the game in order to get into the program.”
It’s probably a little early to hope that upcoming games like Crackdown 3 and Halo Wars 2 will come to Xbox Preview, but there’s always a chance. There’s still Ark: Survival Evolved to look forward to.