In the world of PC games, accessing titles before they are fully baked is a common occurrence. Steam has built up a workflow for developers through its Early Access model and Phil Spencer wants to bring a similar service to the Xbox platform.
In an interview this week with The Guardian, Phil Spencer talked about a wide variety of topics including that “Creators are a huge focus” for the Xbox Team. But what I found more interesting is the idea of expanding an Early-Access-like program into the Xbox ecosystem.
Microsoft has experimented with early access content in the past but Spencer notes only at a small scale. But early access-like programs open up the door to new opportunities and with Xbox Cloud Gaming now generally available, there is much less risk involved.
In the world of PC games, playing games in the alpha stage means that they may not be optimized for low-end hardware, missing various gameplay elements, or more than likely, are also unstable and crash frequently.
Bringing unstable and incomplete games to a console introduces new risks to the platform as unstable games can inadvertently expose the device to those with malicious intent even after passing through the certification process. But with Xbox Cloud Gaming, Microsoft could build an early-access-like service that streams the game from its cloud to endpoints like a console or browser without the risk associated with running content locally.
Spencer/, in the interview, does not explicitly talk about a timeline for launching this type of program for Xbox but considering that he brought it up, I would hedge that it is more likely to happen in the near-ish future.
One thing most people do not think about early-access programs is that they are a different model for funding game development. This type of model can be crucial for independent developers who may not have massive budgets to ride until complete and by selling games as they are built, this can enable developers to eat while they develop.