GOG.com is joining rival Steam in selling early access to unfinished games, but with a more cautious approach.
The “games in development” program is kicking off with five titles: Starbound, Ashes of the Singularity, Project Zomboid, TerraTech, and The Curious Expedition. (All of these games are also available through Steam’s Early Access program already.)
As with all GOG offerings, the big difference compared to Steam is the absence of digital rights management. The games will also support GOG’s optional Galaxy launcher client, which lets players turn off auto-updates and roll back to previous versions. This should be especially useful for early access games, whose stability and features are always changing.
GOG also suggests that it will be fairly selective with early access games, “carefully evaluating” which ones will be available. Marcin Iwinski, co-founder of GOG owner CD Projekt, has previously criticized Steam’s Early Access program for a lack of curation, only removing games after they’re discovered to be unplayable. (Valve does have a group that decides which games land on Steam, but also offers a program where users can vote on game ideas.)
Still, GOG is taking one idea from Steam for its games in development program: All purchases will come with a 14-day, no questions asked refund window. Valve currently offers these types of refunds for all Steam games, not just Early Access releases.
Why this matters: The early access model has been both a blessing and a curse for PC gaming. While it has given birth to shining gems like Kerbal Space Program and Wasteland 2, there’s no guarantee that the games will match the developer’s original vision or even reach a finished state. Valve has certainly acknowledged these issues on Steam—at times telling Early Access developers to ratchet down the hype—but still takes a fairly liberal approach with nearly 700 games on offer. It’ll be interesting to see how conservative GOG is by comparison as its own program gets underway.