The Hypocrisy of Steam Users
Back in 2009, large amounts of Steam users were boycotting the imminent PC release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 because it wasn’t going to have user-created dedicated servers. When the game came out, it was revealed that many of the so-called “boycotters” had, in fact, bought it and were playing it:
It would seem it’s happening again with the recent release of the “early access” version of Uber Entertainment’s Planetary Annihilation. For those who don’t know, an “early access” release of a game, also known as an Alpha or Beta release, lets you support the developers by buying their game before it’s released at a different price, usually cheaper, than the game would otherwise cost; in exchange, you get the ability to play rough, playable, and in-development versions of the game now and, thanks to your demonstrated faith in the developer’s skills, the ability to (usually) help guide the development of the game through feedback, suggestions, and reporting of issues (bugs) with the game. Depending on the game, you might also get nifty bonuses, like the game’s soundtrack, a digital or physical artbook containing all of the sketches and concept art which helped shape the look of the game, or wallpapers.
Planetary Annihilation has garnered quite a bit of controversy recently for charging the exact same prices for alpha and beta access to the game as those who funded the game on Kickstarter: 90 USD (US Dollars) and 60 USD, respectively. Many of the comments from Steam users to the official explanation are negative; here’s a sampling:
“Overpriced! Insulting!” – OutsideR
“I can only speak for myself on this one, but the reason that I buy games through steam is to get a huge discount. I love buying games through steam for this reason, I can afford them.
I love video games and I want to support the developers, but the high price tag on this is prohibitive. When other games that are huge titles getting released from major developers the price is often $50 on launch day. This seems poorly executed.” – Curor
“90$ for a game thats not even finished? Lol f*** that” – Skeeter [censorship mine]
“Been watching this game for ages; saw the price tag, interest gone. normally games that are in pre-alphas, alphas and betas are cheaper, and as they become more complete they become more expensive. these guys have got it all backwards. look at minecraft; notch nailed it by selling the game dirt cheap before it was anywhere near finished; hundreds of thousands of people purchased it. he was successeful. how successful do you think this game will be?” – L11Enk
The last comment shares a similar sentiment to my personal opinion on Planetary Annihilation‘s “early access” cost. While I do understand they don’t want to alienate their Kickstarter backers by making the game (in its pre-release form) cost somewhere within average alpha/beta/”early access” price range of 9USD – 19USD, the incentives offered to counteract the cost, such as the game’s digital artbook and soundtrack, don’t make it all that appealing. If these were physical goods, which would involve printing and shipping costs – the latter especially in the case of international shipments, such as a statue, a poster, or a physical artbook, I might consider 90 USD or 60 USD a fair price. Instead, all the goods are digital – which means the costs for most the goods themselves are much, much lower than they would otherwise.
However, I’ve recently noticed that quite a few people don’t seem to agree with the overwhelmingly-negative attitude in the official announcement’s comment section:
For the past week, Planetary Annihilation has been in Steam’s top 10 best-selling games list. What’s more impressive in my mind is that as of 3:46 PM EST (Eastern Standard Time), Planetary Annihilation is the fourth-best-selling game on Steam – beating out such popular games such as Skyrim, The Witcher 2, and UnEpic. In other words, it would seem that the same hypocrisy which occurred with the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 boycott is happening again – Steam users are loudly protesting Planetary Annihilation‘s unusually-high “early access” price, yet they’re still buying (and likely subsequently playing) the very game they claim to be protesting.