Avoiding Early Access / by Brandon Driesse

Charles Dufour was our first guest for Dev Talks at PAX East 2019(please give us media badges, we love doing this and could achieve so many more interviews in the span of the con). If you don’t know how Dev Talks works, because you’re a new viewer or other reasons, we spend some time talking with various indie game developers showcasing at the con, get a sense of their story and how they got where they are and tailor an interview towards their experiences while learning the ins and outs of exhibiting, while asking some more general questions to help out new indies. We post the video interview and after editing it to be all shiny and pretty with fancy motion graphics, b-roll, and hack-job editing to make us both sound smart and collected, I'll write this little article to summarize and include any information we didn’t cover in the video interview but still discussed outside it while talking in-person.

This year’s theme is “how do you price your indie game” to which we’ve received a lot of different perspectives and somehow they all land in the same-ish ballpark for completely separate reasons!

Once again we’re talking about the coveted Canada Media Fund, if you’re one of the lucky devs who live in this land of prosperity, or Atlanta, Georgia, you’ll have a chance to pitch your creative project for the big cash. Something we learned is that for game the team over at Sweet Bandits had to declare a price point to even receive funding! Of course this isn’t fully locked down, thank goodness because as we also learned from Charles the gang is avoiding showcasing their game, its price, or listing it on Steam’s Early Access program. Why?

Surely there are benefits to getting players to test and buy your early Alphas and Betas, but as we’ve personally seen at Scarecrow Arts, this pre-release stage can hurt the image of your game in player’s minds, lead to disappointment, or create an idea in prospective customer’s heads that tell them to make skip this entry in Steam’s massive catalog. A second major reason for dodging the program is to more effectively seek a publisher. Making games costs a lot of money, and marketing games so that they become profitable is ****ing scientific: the publisher needs the public to be in the dark to deliver the most accurate and positive view on their product and “pull the levers” that sell the game at the price they’ve calculated to be optimal for what the customer receives, covers the cost of development an nets, generally, the most money. Shit’s hard.

I should talk a little about their game, but the reason they showed at the con was for player feedback, I actually had to request some footage of the game to play over our interview because there’s not a single trailer online. It’s very fun, it’s a lot like other spy games in multiplayer settings with a few innovative twists creating a hectic start, middle, and end to each match. My cameraman Kirk(@Jigsawflex) and I had a blast playing it.