In a recent interview with Gamasutra, Compulsion COO and Producer Sam Abbott discussed We Happy Few‘s reception and how Early Access played a key role in its development. While Abbott reflected on Early Access, stating “if we hadn’t done [it], I don’t think We Happy Few would’ve been as successful,” that success isn’t without its asterisks. Currently holding a Metacritic score of 67, We Happy Few didn’t review well, despite all the hype. The disparity between expectation and reality was due to unrealistic expectations players had from that initial trailer.
We Happy Few isn’t the first game to shine on screen, only to elicit a different reaction once players were behind the controller. And in the age of social media, you never know what piece of marketing material might pop.
Many gamers took that single trailer as a promise, rather than an act of promotion. Abbott reflected on this situation, warning developers that players are always buying their own idea of your game, rather than what’s detailed on the store page or your development blog.
When the game was launched in Early Access, the expectations of what it was were already set in people’s minds. It was a very interesting sort of situation, because people looked in isolation at that [trailer] and assumed that’s what the game would be, and ignored all the previous streams—which had millions of views at that point—and they ignored all the marketing material that was on the store page. They ignored the store page, the description, dev interviews, our commentary—basically everything that helps paint a picture of the game.
Similarly, those closely following We Happy Few understood the team’s decision to increase the price to a full $60 retail release. However, those who had only a sliver of insight regarding the game were far more likely to take to Reddit and YouTube to criticize this move.
It’s a challenge to bridge the gap between the player and developer, but Early Access can help. To Abbott, it was a crucial check-point. While We Happy Few may not have reeled in everyone hooked on the trailer, it did satisfy the new audience it found from its Early Access days.
Early Access is by no means a magic wand, but Abbott concluded by giving some advice to developers considering it for their game.
One: do you think your game would benefit from significant, ongoing feedback? And two: do you have financing requirements that might benefit from Early Access? If the answer is yes to both, then I think you should go for it.
We Happy Few is out now on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. If you’ve yet to take your joy, be sure to read our review to see if you should step into this dystopia.