Early access has a problem.
Yes, 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. 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.
We believe the solution lies in giving developers the tools to create their own program around their game, so that they get the feedback, playtesting and community that they deserve.
Today we are launching itch.io refinery, a customizable toolset for first releases & playtests that allows a developer to design their own distribution model and grow their game, and community, how they want to.
With itch.io refinery, developers are the only ones to decide how they first release their game. Whether that comes in the form of an open paid alpha with limited keys or a closed beta playtest with select testers, the toolset allows a developer to customize their program.
Here’s some of the features itch.io refinery includes:
Developers can now limit the total number of keys available for purchase. This makes for a great way to slowly roll our a game for testing or to target those who are most interested in your game (i.e. from a mailing list.)
Exclusive content (rewards)
Exclusive content is a way of providing a limited quantity reward to a buyer if they purchase your project at a specific price point. Adding a reward to a project is a great way to give exclusive perks to early buyers.
Command-line tools and delta patches
With our command-line tools, developers can push a new build directly to itch.io right from your build script. Additionally, only the changed files will be uploaded by you and downloaded by players to create delta patches, so no more complete re-downloads just for patching. This is great for players of in-development games that are being patched constantly.
Selling physical goods
Another use case for rewards is selling physical goods along with digital content. In this example you might create a reward above the minimum price that comes with t-shirt. As more shirts become available you can boost the quantity. Developers can specify on the reward that you’d like to collect a shipping address. Developers can also add a custom field to get the size of the shirt.
Restricted community access
Developers can now create a message board only available to the people who have bought your game. This is a private hub where creators can be open about your game’s development and gain useful feedback from your players.
Games with itch.io refinery
There are already 5 games that are (or are going to be) using the toolset. Check them out, they’re rad:
If you’re interested in using itch.io refinery for your game, the tools are launching for everyone today, but feel free to email us at email@example.com if you want some guidance and suggestions.
We can’t wait to see all the games that will grow using itch.io refinery. Maybe it’s been forgotten that accessing games early is a privilege, not a right; we believe by putting developers in control of that access, that won’t be the case.
We love you.
-The itch.io team