Publishers Charging For Early Access Must Have Working Servers

Last year, we saw the rise of video game publishers offering a few days of early access to big AAA games for a price. This year, it’s only going to get worse as it seems every large game publisher is holding games hostage and charging players a ransom fee to play a few days early. But what happens when you pay $80, $90, $100, or even more for a game and early access to it and don’t actually get to play the game? Well, we’re seeing that play out with WB Games and Rocksteady’s Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League. 

After numerous delays, Rocksteady—the developer behind the Arkham games—finally (sort of) launched its next big title, Suicide Squad. But unlike the Batman games it previously developed, this new game is a live-service (yes it is) co-op looter shooter starring iconic villains like Harley Quinn. As a result, a lot of Batman fans were disappointed by the game’s reveal and things have only gotten worse with each delay, leak, gameplay trailer, and preview. And now, the game is out for folks who paid $100 (plus tax) on the game’s special edition, a version of the game that comes with some extra goodies and one significant “perk”: three-day early access. Yet, for most of January 29, players have been unable to play the game they spent all that money on.

Technically, players in some time zones who purchased the game’s $100 deluxe edition were supposed to be able to start playing Suicide Squad today. That hasn’t been the case, though, because of a bug that meant some players booted up the game and discovered the entire campaign was already completed. Oops! In response, Rocksteady yanked the servers down and, because the game doesn’t have an offline mode (yet), that made it unplayable.

Sure, the deluxe edition comes with some extra cosmetics and a free one-time-use token that lets you upgrade a battle pass to its premium version. But checking Twitter and elsewhere, it’s clear that most players bought the fancy version because they wanted to play the game early. And now they can’t.

Normally, I’d say: Hey, games are hard to make and servers are complicated things to run, so let’s cut everyone some slack while they figure things out. Not this time though.

Sorry, but if you treat early access to a video game as a premium marketing point—something you will advertise endlessly and hype up for weeks—you have to deliver that experience. Yes, I know there’s a blurb at the bottom of the store listing that says they can’t guarantee you’ll get to play 72 hours of early access. I know. But that doesn’t change the fact that WB happily took all of these players’ $100 pre-orders and won’t be able to provide them with what they wanted: early access.

And there’s no way to fix that. If the servers are still down for most of tomorrow, players might—at best—get 24 hours of early access. WB isn’t going to delay the game for everyone else by two days to make sure the folks who paid more get to play “early.” They just get screwed and maybe learn a lesson: Don’t pay these publisher ransom fees to play something early.

You aren’t actually playing games “early”

Remember that these games, like Starfield and Mortal Kombat 1, aren’t actually being launched early for folks who pay extra. The game went through all the certifications, testing, checks and other hoops needed to launch a game on consoles. That’s the only way WB can sell you Suicide Squad on the Xbox Store or PSN. So all of these games are (assuming the servers are up) ready to launch for everyone. All the publisher is doing is delaying the game for a few days for the folks who aren’t willing to pay an extra fee on top of the standard $70 asking price.

I know the argument that some people make is that this is a choice. If some people are willing to pay the money, why not let them? Because we shouldn’t let companies get away with being evil, greedy assholes just because someone out there is willing to go “Okay, sure, I’ll pay.” You think the world is a bad place now? Imagine if corporations could do whatever they want as long as someone, anyone, was willing to pay.

So yeah, I get it. The market supports this. People will pay. Blah blah blah. But hopefully, what today has shown is that paying for early access is for suckers, especially for online-only titles. You pay more for a possibly less stable and more broken version of a game and the publisher can’t even guarantee you that you’ll actually get to play whatever you paid for early at all.

Hopefully you can. And if not well, tough luck and enjoy your extra digital hats or whatever, I guess. Is that worth $100? I’m not so sure.


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