Get immediate access to games that are being developed with the community's involvement. These are games that evolve as you play them, as you give feedback, and as the developers update and add content.
We like to think of games and game development as services that grow and evolve with the involvement of customers and the community. There have been a number of prominent titles that have embraced this model of development recently and found a lot of value in the process. We like to support and encourage developers who want to ship early, involve customers, and build lasting relationships that help everyone make better games.
This is the way games should be made.
Check out the listing of Early Access titles currently on Steam, and look for something that strikes your interest. Then buy the game or, if its free, just start playing. And get involved; give feedback, participate in discussions, post screenshots, write guides.
Developers have varying approaches, so it's a good idea to look at a store page before you jump into any game. You'll notice that announcements from developers show up on their store pages now, so you can get a snapshot of recent update or news directly from the source.
First of all, look for games that are interesting, exciting, and that you want to play. Then, there are a couple things you should consider before making your purchase:
What is the game like to play right now?
When you buy an Early Access game, you should consider what the game is like to play right now. Look at the screenshots and videos to see what the game looks like in its current state. There are a lot of ways a game can go as it develops over time, so if you aren't excited to play the game in its current state, then hold off and wait until the next update--it shouldn't be far off.
How often is this game getting updated?
Take a look at the recent update announcements from the developer (shown on the store page for that game) to get a sense of how active the developer is. Does it look like that game is getting updated a lot? Are they valuable and interesting updates?
Pricing of individual games may change over time
Some developers will start by offering a discount for buying early while others will charge a premium, depending on their goals and the level of commitment and feedback they desire from Early Access customers.
Is this the same as pre-purchasing a game?
No. Early Access is a full purchase of a playable game. By purchasing, you gain immediate access to download and play the game in its current form and as it evolves. You keep access to the game, even if the game later moves from Early Access into fully released.
Its up to the developer to determine when they are ready to 'release'. Some developers have a concrete deadline in mind, while others will get a better sense as the development of the game progresses. You should be aware that some teams will be unable to 'finish' their game. So you should only buy an Early Access game if you are excited about playing it in its current state.
We're starting out with a handful of games and will be expanding it over time. If your game has already been Greenlit or you know your next game will be on Steam, then get in touch with your Valve release team and let us know of your plans and interest.