Indie marketplace Itch.io has opened its own Early Access-like platform, Refinery.
Like Steam’s service for releasing games still in the midst of development, Refinery will allow devs to make alpha and beta versions of their titles available to consumers for a price.
However, Refinery also includes several features Itch.io highlighted as an effort to solve the ‘problem’ of Early Access.
“The original idea of releasing in-development games to the public in order to gain meaningful feedback and build a community was sound, however, we’ve seen and heard from many developers that early access no longer provides that,” Itch.io said in an update on its blog.
“Overly competitive environments, sometimes misunderstanding communities and non-existent sales model flexibility has moved the focus of away from growing and fostering a game’s development, to simply completing an early transaction with meager hopes of good feedback.”
To counteract this, devs using Refinery will be able to limit the number of keys offered for sale, making it easier to collect feedback and track testing analytics.
Receiving player feedback will be enhanced by the chance to enable restricted community access, such as message boards populated solely by confirmed owners of a game.
Refinery also appears to be taking pointers from crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, allowing creators to provide buyers with exclusive content – including physical goods such as t-shirts – when their game is purchased above a certain price.
Developers can utilise Itch.io’s command line tools to push new builds directly to Refinery, with players only needing to download changed files to update – rather than the entire game.
Five games have been announced to be using Refinery so far: Overland, Manifold Garden, Jenny LeClue (pictured), Hackmud and Gonner.