Yesterday, the ARK: Scorched Earth expansion pack was released on Steam, for $20. The catch? The game isn't even out yet. This is the first time an Early Access title has received paid DLC, and to my knowledge the first time add-on content was available and playable for a game that hasn't technically released.
ARK is an Early Access title, which means interested gamers can pay now and play the game as development progresses before it's finally "released." But the Early Access model has made "release" a gray area. Some games have stalled in Early Access, leaving players unhappy and out some cash, while some have thrived there.
ARK seems to be in the latter group. The fans of the game are very fond of it, but most would agree that there are bugs and performance issues that need a lot of work. The game was supposed to leave Early Access and be officially "released" a few months ago, but these bugs and performance problems delayed that release.
And now, a paid DLC has been added to the mix. This is the first time an Early Access game has received paid DLC and it's leaving a bad taste in some people's mouths. The game's Steam rating quickly dropped by 16%. Steam reviews aren't always a good indicator for the quality of a game, but that's a clear indication of some unhappy people.
Many argue that the money and time should be spent on fixing the bugs present in the core game, while others point out that multiple teams do different things and this probably didn't take anything away from the bug fixes. The truth is probably somewhere in between, since new DLC will inevitably introduce new variables into the process at best, and at worst could have taken time away from getting the game out.
Either way, some see charging money for new content for a game that isn't out as a slight to the player base, regardless of how much it affects the release window.
Plus, there are many complaints about the value of the $20 price tag for what some are calling a meager amount of content, considering that the full game is $30.
I'm not sure where I fall on this, but regardless of this specific case, what I worry about is the precedent it sets. Studio Wildcard is known to be quite involved and open with the community, and very active with new patches, etc, but other developers aren't. I worry that game developers will be able to use Early Access as a shield for complaints about performance or gameplay ("it's not finished, we're still working on it," etc.) while still attempting to generate new revenue with new content.
What are your thoughts on this? A dangerous precedent, bad for the players, or just a new method of delivering content in an industry where the players are more and more involved in development?
ARK: Survival Evolved on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/346110/