Let me start off by saying that I’ve been an avid Player Unknown’s Battleground (PUBG) fan. When my friend introduced me to this battle royale multiplayer, I was stoked. A competitive shooter where both stealth and aggressive gameplay can be equally rewarding? Count me in. I’ve put in countless hours into PUBG and will continue to do so as long as the developers support it in a way that keeps players and fans on top of mind.
With that said, I don’t believe an early access game should ever be nominated for a coveted game of the year, no matter how polished it is. When I first picked up the game early on, I was impressed by how playable it was. Sure, it needed work, but the overall experience was so enjoyable that I went through multiple rounds within a few hours. However, the game still needs to be optimized and there are still a number of bugs to work out before it’s fully ready for official public distribution.
The reason early access exists is to give indie-developers a platform to gain support from consumers. Similar to crowd-funding services such as Kickstarter, early access can significantly help developers with the initial funding needed to help their games reach a proper release. In addition, early-access can be an amazing tool to drive awareness when studios cannot afford traditional marketing strategies. Word of mouth is, and always will be, one of the best ways to build initial success - especially when it comes to the gaming community.
A work in progress shouldn’t ever be judged as a final product, no matter how close it is to being version 1.0. Giving an early access game this kind of recognition is a sure fire way to tell developers that it is okay to ship a game that is not ready for the public. Publications such as IGN and Polygon have made an effort to even hold off on a final score with certain titles with provisional reviews, in which the score is subject to change until it has been tested in real-world conditions.
While PUBG has proved that it is capable of meeting real-world expectations, I don’t think it should be nominated for game of the year until developers make its official debut on PC and consoles. I certainly agree PUBG’s Creative Director, Brendan Greene – there are plenty of other games this year that deserve this nomination, and I hope to see those titles grab the spotlight.
Kim followed-up by saying that Early Access shouldn’t matter when judging game for awards, and that you should “just look at the game itself,” not the label it has. Kim explained that “once the 1.0 version comes out, we're going to continually upgrade the game going forward. We're not going to stop there.”