When is Early Access actually an expensive release date?

Where does the line between early access, release day, and post launch lie?  Especially when we associated with their respective prices?  After all, if you pay $150 to play the game 2 days before someone paying $120, does that mean the actual launch price of the game is $150?

Sometimes I think back to the insanity that was the Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Pre-order scheme where if enough people pre-ordered the game, it would be released early.  How crazy is that?  Was the game being released before it would be ready as a “perk” or was the game ready for release, but the release date was dictated by how many people had already locked in their money. Fan outrage ensued, and that poorly thought out pre-order campaign was removed.

Weirdly, something started becoming more common place with surprisingly little backlash.  Games started releasing earlier, but only if you bought their elaborate packs.

This has returned to my mind, because I’m excited about Shadow of the Tomb Raider.  Seeing the selection of editions when they leaked, had me eying up the statue in the top tier edition.  I started hunting around to find where I could buy it, and I saw an interesting perk.  The game will be released 48 hours earlier with some editions.

Further investigation found that the only edition without this perk is the Standard Edition.  Your next option is the Croft Edition, which comes with all of the DLC, and the release date being 2 days earlier.  So basically, if you want the game at release, you need to pre-order the season pass.

No matter how you justify season passes, locking the launch day out for people not plonking extra money down is a bit shifty.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  “But Blair, that’s for early access, if you want to wait for the release date, then you can”.

To that I say, which release date are you arguing?  The date that marketing is saying is the release date?  Or the release date that is logical.

I present you this idea.  If you can walk into a shop and pick a game up off the shelf, has it not been released?  If I can jump online and buy the game, download it and play it, has it not been released?

This is likely what will happen, come Wednesday the 12th of September, unless they sell out of copies.  That assumption is based off the fact that physical copies are being distributed 48 hours early, and that Forza has done this before.

When Forza Horizon 3 was released, you could walk into a shop and buy a physical copy of the game, before “release date”.  It was a more expensive version of the game with DLC, but by all definitions, the game had been released.  Well, all definitions except for the one that the marketing teams are using.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  “But Blair, why shouldn’t more expensive versions be available to people willing to pay to play the game earlier”.

To that I say, sure, they can do that.  Hell, when I buy a game for $120 and someone buys it 2 months later, for $80, I have paid more for earlier access.

But they, and we, should be more upfront about it.  A release date isn’t the day that a cut down version is released after the game has been available to purchase already.  You aren’t buying early access by essentially locking in the DLC.

You are paying full price on the games release date.  People who wait 2 days, and pay up to $120 (or up to $60 in the US) are buying a version of the game, with less content, 2 days after the games release date.

No matter how you spin it, no matter how you justify it to yourself, the above is calling it as I see it.  The game has been released if I can buy it and play it, more so if I can walk into a shop and can pick a copy up off the shelf.  Some games just cost more now, but the stingy among us can buy a cut down version, a couple of days later.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  “But Blair, early access has been available on steam from a long time, what’s the difference?”

The difference is Early Access is a thing, that is different to what these marketing campaigns will tell you.  Early access was access to the game, long before it was ready to be sold. They had to make you agree to multiple warnings, saying the game will be broken, and may never be fixed.

You were buying an Early Access game, because you gained access to it before it was even ready to be considered a complete game.

This sales pitch is a different beast.  This is giving you the disc, before the cheaper version goes on sale.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  “Well if that’s the case, surely you’re not going to be buying Shadow of the Tomb Raider out of protest”

Nope. I’m still going to pick up the game, I’m super excited for the next stage in Lara’s story.  If people decide not to buy the game in protest, I respect that.  If people decide to not buy the Croft Edition out of protest, I respect that.  I’ll be grabbing the steel book edition, and enjoy looking at that sexy case on my shelf.

I just won’t lie to myself by thinking I picked it up at launch, I didn’t.


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