When a game is in early access, it means that it is still in development but has allowed a certain group of players to test the game. The typical stages of early access can be described as pre-alpha, alpha, pre-beta, or beta phases. The difference between them is at what stage of development the game is currently in, with pre-alpha being the earliest and beta generally being the last stage before a game is ready for a full launch. Early access gameplay can either be closed or open, with the former meaning that it is only available to select players and the latter meaning it is open to the general public.
In web3, some gaming projects will conduct an NFT sale before the actual game is ready for a full launch and token gate their early access gameplay to holders of the NFT collection. This model is very similar to what we have seen with Steam’s early access feature or as one of the various benefits offered to participants in a game’s Kickstarter campaign.
Offering early access to a game’s community is a popular method of rewarding the early supporters who have, in some cases, already invested capital into the game’s development. It is also a great way for developers to test their game for bugs before the full launch. Despite all games going through rigorous internal testing, nothing can prepare a team for when the game is released to thousands of players engaging with the game simultaneously.