Yesterday, I wrote a post regarding how to make Steam Early Access work for you that has hopefully given you some insight into the best practices for using Early Access. It’s a great option if you want to get some early funding for your indie game while building a community surrounding your game and ultimately, allowing others to help you improve your indie game as a whole. Unfortunately, there are some practices that can not only ruin you’re the chances of anyone buying your Early Access title, but can only severely harm your credibility as an indie developer.
Most of these bad practices to avoid are common sense and nothing more, but they’re worth mentioning. Below are practices you need to avoid at all costs.
Releasing updates/new information ‘now and again’
I briefly touched on this point in the article linked above, but it bears repeating again: you need to consistently release new updates and provide new information regarding your indie game to your audience. There’s nothing that will make your audience turn on you and your game faster than failing to release new information and updates for the game. This will make your audience think that you have abandoned them, and even if you haven’t? They’re going to start proclaiming they want, “refunds,” and how you simply, “took their money and ran off with it.”
Even if you have no news, a simple update is all you need to do. Have an update that is brewing but won’t be released for a few weeks? Mention this on the Early Access page. Even if you don’t have anything to say, you should be discussing the game with your audience and taking the time to hear what they have to say about it. It reminds them that you care about the entire project, and they will appreciate it.
Ignoring your fanbase
Have you noticed there are a lot of players that are complaining about the same problem in your Early Access game? The worst thing you can do is ignore it. That doesn’t necessarily mean fixing the complaint: if it’s there for a reason and only a segment of your audience is complaining about the problem (i.e. it’s a non-issue), then you don’t have to fix it. But you need to at least address the complaints and give your side of the story.
Players hate to be ignored, and if they feel as if you are not listening to their criticisms (one of the main reasons to put your game into Early Access in the first place), they’re going to begin despising you for it. From there, they could take to social media and start complaining about your Early Access game, and if that happens? You have another bad situation you have to deal with.
Communicate often and don’t ignore. It’s mandatory.
Abandoning the entire project
Most of us have heard horror stories of people purchasing an Early Access game only to find that months later, the developer decides to abandon the project altogether.
The game doesn’t get updated, the players are out of money, and the indie developer likely gets off the hook without any ramifications except damaged credibility. It’s happened a lot more than it should, and it even happened to me! To say I was angry was an understatement, and in truth, it has kept me from buying just any Early Access game that looks cool.
If you show you have thought out plan for developing your indie game and you show that you have made a ton of progress (and of course, show a history of communicating with your audience and releasing updates often), then players are going to be more likely to purchase your Early Access title.
But that’s another point for another time. The point you need to understand is that abandoning the entire project – no matter how hard it may be – is a big no-no. That’s the disadvantage of Early Access: if you have any doubts that a retail version of the game is ever going to exist, you probably shouldn’t consider Early Access in the first place. Early Access if for those that are in it for the ‘long haul.’ Going in, you need to know that your indie game is going to eventually be finished no matter what it takes.
Besides, with people funding your indie game, you owe it to them to fully develop a game they can enjoy for years to come. That’s why they pay you, and it’s what they expect you to deliver. Follow through, and everything will turn out just fine.