The day before launching Planet Nomads on Steam Early Access, its developers made an unexpected announcement. Worried that the project’s current early build would garner unfavorable reviews, developer Craneballs decided to postpone the public launch until May. In order to keep their Kickstarter promises, all backers get to play the game today through closed beta access. It’s a difficult situation and one which has earned them just as much vitriol as praise.
After extensive feedback from their alpha testers, Craneballs still wasn’t satisfied with the game’s current build. This would serve as many player’s first experience with Planet Nomads and they wanted to do better. Despite struggling to forge ahead with the early access release they realized that just a few more weeks of polish could make all the difference on player’s first impressions. Finally, with literally hours remaining until launch, the team made the difficult decision to postpone release. The fallout on Steam was swift.
Craneballs defended their decision, pointing out that Steam’s recent review update would give preference to keys purchased through early access. Without backer and pre-order purchases to balance the ratings they were afraid new players would have unfair expectations of the early access build. This could tarnish the game’s reputation before it ever saw a full release.
You Only Launch Once
The team felt that backers would be more sympathetic to early access bugs and glitches. Since they’ve been supporting Planet Nomads since the beginning backers got to avoid the delay and start playing on April 18th as planned. What was meant to be the early access build has now been switched to a closed beta while Craneballs does more polishing behind the scenes.
Honestly, it was the right call at the wrong time. Despite the protests on Steam, there are things far worse for a project than pushing back a release date. There is a stigma surrounding early access titles, particularly if they prove to be unplayable messes. It hasn’t helped that unscrupulous developers have used the system to launch broken titles before abandoning them indefinitely. Due to its tarnished reputation it’s no longer enough to release a rough early access build on Steam. Developers need to start strong and constantly improve or they will be buried by critical reviews.
Waiting until so close to launch clearly wasn’t preferable, but in the end it’s still a better choice than pushing ahead before the game is ready. The downside being that now players will expect even more of Planet Nomads when it finally does release in early access next month. Hopefully, Craneballs will be ready.