Valve announced earlier today the creation of an Early Access portion of Steam, which grants gamers the ability to play certain titles while development is still ongoing. This move allows for game developers to hear exactly what fans are thinking and even provide feedback before the game launches in full. It's like alpha or beta testing, just with a game that's constantly updated and lets you "interact with other players, making it easy to create and share screenshots, tips, and in-depth guides".
The studio had the following to say about the Early Access program:
Steam Early Access titles allow the community to get involved early and play select titles during their development. The goal of Early Access is to provide gamers with the chance to "go behind the scenes" and experience the development cycle firsthand and, more importantly, have a chance to interact with the developers by providing them feedback while the title is still being created.
There are twelve games on the initial slate of Early Access titles, with more undoubtedly on the way. Everything is priced between $6.99 and $32.99, although Gear Up does have a free version.
- 1... 2... 3... KICK IT! (Drop That Beat Like an Ugly Baby)
- Arma 3
- Drunken Robot Pornography
- Gear Up
- Kerbal Space Program
- Kinetic Void
- Prison Architect
- Under the Ocean
That's quite a varied selection of games, including some that were recently Greenlit. Some games, like Arma 3, have been available on Steam for a little while, and others, like Kerbal Space Program, were purchasable on the developer's website.
All the games are reasonably priced, but if something doesn't quite catch your eye then feel free to wait until further along in development. Developers are able to post progress on each game's store page now, so be sure to watch those for information on new updates. Buying any game on Early Access means it's yours to keep; you just get it while it's still being worked on.
More information on the Early Access program can be found on Steam.