GOG "would definitely consider" Early Access, but prefer curatorial approach
We're less than halfway through the year, and Steam has already released more games than it did during the entirety of 2013. Part of the reason for that rise is increased activity among services like Early Access, Steam's alpha funding category. Steam may now host more games, but many of them are still being actively developed. CD Projekt co-founder Marcin Iwinski has now said that their digital distribution channel GOG "would definitely consider" following an Early Access style service, but that, if they did, it would have to be more heavily curated.
"We're obviously looking at it," Iwinski told Eurogamer. "As you know our concept is different; first of all it's DRM-free and second it's curated. I'm often very lost in a lot of stores - apps being my example today. Or even Steam. I don't know what's happening; there's hundreds of releases a month, and I really believe - and our community's clearly showing that - there is a place for a platform which is choosing the stuff.
"With the approach that Steam has they decided not to, and it's fine, it works extremely well for them and some developers, but it has threats like the one of bad Early Access games. And it's tempting, it's really tempting: you're a developer and you can get to Early Access and charge 40-whatever for your game, for your non-working alpha. And they're pocketing immediately.
"We would definitely consider it," he said, "but again it would be the GOG way. It would have to be curated and, we believe - we are always saying this very openly - we are responsible in front of the gamer for what they're buying on GOG."
When it comes to GOG's catalogue, I do enjoy highlighting that the presence of some games is in stark contrast to their claims of curation. At the same time, I take the point: as Steam increasingly breaks down its borders, it's becoming harder to pick out the games worth taking time for.
Still, to call these services curated is to be naive as to the how they operate. How many terrible games have made it onto Steam not because of Early Access or Greenlight, but because of deals to accept the entirety of a publisher's catalogue? The idea that Steam has suddenly become untamed wildlands is ridiculous—both because of the quality of games throughout its history, and the difficulty some developers still have in getting accepted onto the service.
I do think there's value in curation, both in GOG's selective sense, and in Steam's rumoured Greenlight solution. If Valve's service does open the floodgates, and lets everyone sell through the Steam client, a specifically curated front page—or even a series of user-made storefronts—could, with time, be a good option for users. Especially if it helps avoid unfortunate incidents like the Earth: Year 2066 removal, or the abandonment of Towns.