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Early Access

Overview

What is Early Access?

Steam Early Access enables you to sell your game on Steam while it is still being developed, and provide context to customers that a product should be considered "unfinished." Early Access is a place for games that are in a playable alpha or beta state, are worth the current value of the playable build, and that you plan to continue to develop for release.

Releasing a game in Early Access helps set context for prospective customers and provides them with information about your plans and goals before a "final" release.

What Early Access Is Not

Early Access is not a way to crowdfund development of your product.
You should not use Early Access solely to fund development. If you are counting on selling a specific number of units to complete your game, then you need to think carefully about what it would mean for you or your team if you don't sell that many units. Are you willing to continue developing the game without any sales? Are you willing to seek other forms of investment?

Early Access is not a pre-purchase
Early Access is not meant to be a form of pre-purchase, but a tool to get your game in front of Steam users and gather feedback while finishing your game.

Early Access titles must deliver a playable game or usable software to the customer at the time of purchase, while pre-purchase games are delivered at a future date. Read more about Pre-Purchasing on Steam.

Is Early Access Right For Me?

Early Access is a tool to develop your game with the community by giving them access to your title before it is officially released. You should think hard about whether it is a fit for your game. We recommend looking at other games in Early Access on Steam, checking out the Developer Forums, and also reading some of the below case studies to learn more about developer experiences with Early Access:

During Steam Dev Days, in January 2014, four developers shared what they have learned from being on Early Access; how it affected their development, their sales, and when does Early Access make sense.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRDwA3cQmlc
Panelists are: Justin Bailey (Double Fine), Bob Berry (Uber Entertainment), Jamie Cheng (Klei Entertainment), Mark Morris (Introversion)

Rules

1. You must include Steam Early Access branding and information about the current state of your game on any third-party sites where you are distributing Steam keys for your Early Access game. We work very hard to make sure that customers understand what they are buying when they get an Early Access title on Steam. Therefore we require developers to include the Steam Early Access branding as well as information on the current state of your game and a link to the Steam Early Access FAQ on any site where you are selling Steam keys for your Early Access title. Additionally, you should also include a copy of the Early Access questionnaire. You can read more in the Steam Branding Guidelines.

2. Do not make specific promises about future events. For example, there is no way you can know exactly when the game will be finished, that the game will be finished, or that planned future additions will definitely happen. Do not ask your customers to bet on the future of your game. Customers should be buying your game based on its current state, not on promises of a future that may or may not be realized.

3. Steam Early Access titles need to be available to customers through Steam. If Steam enables your Early Access game, we expect you to have the Early Access game available for sale on the Steam store. Do not offer it for sale on Steam any later than you offer it anywhere else.

4. Don't overcharge Steam customers. The Early Access price of your game should be no higher than that offered on any other service or website. Please take care of your customers on Steam.

5. Make sure you set expectations properly everywhere you talk about your game. Be transparent with your community. For example, if you know your updates during Early Access will break save files, make sure you tell players up front. And say this everywhere you sell your Steam keys.

6. Don't launch in Early Access without a playable game. If you have a tech demo, but not much gameplay yet, then it’s probably too early to launch in Early Access. If you are trying to test out a concept and haven't yet figured out what players are going to do in your game that makes it fun, then it's probably too early. You might want to start by giving out keys to select fans and getting input from a smaller and focused group before you release in Early Access. At a bare minimum, you will need a video trailer that shows gameplay. Even if you are asking for feedback that will impact gameplay, customers need something to start with in order to give informed feedback and suggestions.

7. Don't launch in Early Access if you are finished with development. If you have all your gameplay defined already and are just looking for final bug testing, then Early Access isn’t right for you. You’ll probably want to send out some keys to fans or do more internal playtesting instead. Early Access is intended as a place where customers can impact the final game.

Early Access Q&A

Below are some suggested guidelines for completing the Early Access questionnaire. You know your product best, so treat the answers below as guidelines. More than anything, you should try to be detailed and transparent with customers. This is your opportunity to talk about your plans, set overall expectations, and start the conversation with your community as you work towards a final release. You may also find it helpful to find inspiration from the products or developers you admire.

Why Early Access?
What are your goals? Hopefully you will have the answer to this question before creating your store page. Early Access is a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure you are ready for the commitment of continuing to work on your product, receive feedback, and see your project through to completion.

Approximately how long will this game be in Early Access?

Be as specific as you can. If you don't have a target date range, explain why.

How is the full version planned to differ from the Early Access version?
Again, think about your goals. "Full version" means different things for every product, and this is something only you can decide. Be specific about what you plan on adding, or the data you hope to collect. Don't worry if you end up changing your mind later - that's the point! If you are transparent and listen to your community, you'll be in good shape.

What is the current state of the Early Access version?
What can a customer buy and use today? Be specific in terms of modes, features, levels, etc. You might need to update this section every few weeks or months, to make sure it reflects your progress.

Will the game be priced differently during and after Early Access?
There is no rule on how you price your final product, or official best practice. Many successful developers have raised the price, and many have ultimately lowered the price. In general, try to think of things from an Early Access customer's point of view. How would they feel about this decision. You should aim to reward your early supporters and make them feel like their time and effort was worth it. That doesn't necessarily mean your Early Access price is lower than your final release, but try to provide some kind of value to your Early Access community.

How are you planning on involving the Community in your development process?
The Community plays a crucial role in Early Access development. How will you communicate with your users? On a forum? Your website? How often? This is your chance to tell your users how they can shape your product's development.

Enabling Early Access

These steps need to be taken prior to the release of your Coming Soon page or the launch of your game. If you need to go back and enable the Early Access section but your Coming Soon page is already live, contact Valve via the developer forums.

To enable Early Access on your product, complete the following steps:

  1. Check the 'Early Access' checkbox under the 'Early Access' tab in the store page configuration area for your product.
  2. Complete the Early Access Q&A. Read more about the Q&A here.
Once your product page and Q&A have been completed and reviewed by Valve, you may release your title in Early Access. For more information on releasing your title, see Release Process.
Note: If you already have a Coming Soon page for your product, you will need to contact Valve to enable Early Access.

Best Practices

Early Access Pricing

Pricing decisions depend on the nature of your game and what behavior you'd like to encourage. Most developers have chosen to start out with lower price than their target launch price. This establishes a price that is fair for the content being provided at that time, with the intention that the price will rise over time as more content is added and the game becomes more polished.

Conversely, some developers have chosen to set their Early Access price higher than the target launch price so that they can reach a smaller group of more dedicated fans.

Note that you will not be able to run a discount within 30 days following a price increase. This includes a launch discount when your title transitions from Early Access to fully released. If you have raised your base price within 30 days of this transition you will not be able to run a launch discount.
It's important to be transparent to your community about your pricing decisions, especially if you plan on raising the price in the future. You may not run a permanent discount while in Early Access. If you want to price your title lower in Early Access, you should set a lower base price.

Transitioning From Early Access to 'Released'

When you consider your product "feature complete" and no longer in a significant state of change, you may transition from Early Access to 'Released.' It is worth noting this does not mean you should stop adding features or updating your product--you should keep adding content or fixing bugs as is appropriate for your title.
Note: If your product is no longer marked as Early Access, the expectation from customers will be that your product is stable and delivers a complete experience.

When you are ready to remove the Early Access context from around your product, complete the following steps:


  1. Upload and publish your updated build of your game or software.
  2. Click 'View Release Options' at the top of your product landing page to prepare and release your game fully. Pushing the "Release" button will update the release date for your game, remove the Steam Early Access branding from your store page, and apply any launch discount you have defined.
  3. We recommend publishing an announcement on your Community Hub notifying customers that the game has been released from Early Access.

Early Access Marketing and Visibility

In many ways, Early Access titles are treated the same as "fully released" titles. You will still be able to run discounts, featured in promotions, and be organically recommended to other customers. However, you will not receive your full launch visibility until you are fully released. See Visibility on Steam for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q: Can my Early Access Game be listed as Coming Soon?
    A: Yes, as long as your product isn't already available for purchase. Once you have an Early Access title up for purchase, there is no notion of a product as being available to purchase in Early Access and coming soon at the same time. If you want to communicate that you will be leaving Early Access soon, use the Early Access Q&A.

  • Q: Is it okay to raise my price after leaving Early Access?
    A: Yes, though if you raise your price, you must wait at least 30 days before changing your price again or running a discount.

  • Q: What happens if I don't complete my game?
    A: Sometimes things don't work out as you planned, and you may need to discontinue development of your game. If this happens, you should contact Valve to figure out the next steps. Before reaching out, take a moment to carefully consider whether or not pulling your game down is actually the right choice. Are you acting based on an emotional response to negative feedback, or is retiring your game the appropriate next step? We take our relationship with customers seriously, so if you choose to cancel development of a game and retire it from the store, we will not republish it again later and we may offer refunds to any users who purchased it. Treating customers fairly is the most important thing to us. You can learn more by reading Removing a Product From Steam.

  • Q: How will my early access launch be marketed? Do early access games get visibility on the store?
    A: Early Access titles are still able to run discounts, be featured in promotions, and be organically recommended to other users. Early Access titles do not receive the same launch visibility as a v1.0 release. Check the Visibility on Steam documentation for more details