Valve's Steam platform has introduced a new program that allows its users to purchase and immediately being playing games that are still in development. The new "Early Access" program is a new twist on the development process that lets games 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," Valve explained. "This is the way games should be made."
As of right now there are a total of 12 games available for Early Access, including Arma 3, Kerbal Space Program, Kenshi, and StarForge, to name a few. Valve suggests, looking over the full list, seeing what peaks your interest, and checking how often it is updated, before you make any decisions on purchasing the game at full price. Of course, "full price" will vary from developer to developer. As noted, some developers may start by offering a discount for buying early while others will charge a premium; it all depends on the developer goals.
If this program sounds familiar, that's because it's very similar to what Mojang offers with its games. Prior to Minecraft's official release, players were able to buy the game early in its development (for a considerably lower price) and offer feedback. Judging by the success of Minecraft, I'd say it's a system that works. That's because it allows the developer to achieve their goals while catering to the needs and desires of their community. Perhaps if more publishers and developers relied on this we wouldn't be having the current SimCity debate.