Having just seen that the DayZ alpha has sold more than one million copies, I am not surprised; but I am more disappointed that gamers are willing to pay full price for an unfinished piece of work on the promise that it will be good on release.
Gamers have been complaining for the last few months about the release state of Battlefield 4, which was released with countless bugs and glitches. It was constantly crashing to the desktop and all in all seemed a bit broken and unfinished, which is a cardinal sin for a triple-A title with a large budget. This understandably turned a large amount of people off of the game; I mean, who wants to buy a broken game? Most of us, apparently.
DayZ is obviously in a broken and unfinished state at the moment, completely unfit for full release, so they put alpha on it and started charging people. If they were to release the game now for the same price, we would slam it for being unfinished and no one would buy it, but because they are calling it an alpha, it is suddenly alright? The game is obviously not worth the money being asked for it now, considering all of the features in the EPOCH version of the DayZ mod, yet we still pay for it, and then complain when games are released in an unfinished state.
By buying games for full price or near full price when they are in alpha we are telling publishers that we are ok with them releasing broken games, and at the same time our expectations of a game upon release are dropping. Botched releases are becoming the norm, and although games like Battlefield 4 and Total War: Rome 2 did worse than they would have if they had been fully completed upon release, they still sold millions of copies each without much trouble and even I bought both of these games upon release.
Buying a game that is broken on release isn’t a crime though, I mean really that game should work, but buying an alpha is buying a promise that a currently broken and unfinished game will work further into development. What happens if that game never ends up working? What if there are issues within the game that just can’t be fixed? The money you invest into the alpha is similar to investing in stocks, you may be rewarded with a brilliant game that you love to play, but there is also a chance that the game will never get finished or you won’t like the final product.
When a game is in alpha it is still a long way from being finished, yet people will still pay $30 for it. We are encouraging bad business practices by developers and publishers, making it less of an issue if a game is unfinished. So if you really love a title and want to help with its development, then by all means buy into the alpha if the price isn’t too ridiculous, but don’t buy an alpha if you are even slightly unsure about it.