Monday, July 11, 2016

Xbox Game Preview FAQ

First announced at E3 2015, the Xbox Game Preview program allows gamers to buy and play games that are still in development.  The first year of the program has been very successful, but many people still have a lot of questions about it and how everything works.  We have everything you need to know about the Xbox Game Preview program right here.

What Is Xbox Game Preview?

To start with, it needs to be made clear that the Xbox Game Preview is a totally separate thing from the Xbox One dashboard preview program.  The dashboard preview lets members beta test new Xbox One dashboard updates and new features for a few weeks before that update goes out to everyone on Xbox Live.  The dashboard preview program is limited only to invited members.

The Xbox Game Preview program, on the other hand, is open to anyone and lets you play games that are still in development weeks and months before they’re really final and “done”.  This lets gamers play games super early, but also lets developers get feedback from fans in order to make the game even better when it finally does come out. 

You do have to pay to play Game Preview titles, but you’re essentially just buying the game early.  When the game goes gold and is officially released, you already own it if you bought it when it was in preview.  Each preview game also has a 1-hour demo so you can see if it is worth buying.  These are games still in development, of course, so they can be pretty rough at first.  Part of the fun of buying a Game Preview title, for us at least, is seeing how it improves over the course of development.

It should be noted that there is a slight risk that these Game Preview titles might never actually come out, but unlike Steam’s Early Access which is filled with games stuck in development limbo seemingly forever, no games in the Xbox Game Preview have failed to see a final release yet.  Even if a game never sees release, however, you’ve already likely spent a fair bit of time with it and gotten your money’s worth already, so I don’t see this as being that big of an issue.

Xbox Game Preview Pros and Cons

One word of warning about buying a Game Preview title is that you will have to download a ton of updates for it.  These games are still in development, so they’re constantly getting updated with new features and patches and updates that can eat up a lot of bandwidth. 

The benefit of that, however, is that being able to watch a game essentially be built right before your eyes is very, very cool.  I’ve been playing ARK: Survival Evolved almost since the first day it was available on Xbox One, and the game you can play right now is wildly different from how it was in December 2015.  There are multiple new species of animals and dinosaurs, new items, improved graphics, new gameplay modes, and even a new map to play on that have been added.  The game still has a few months in development, too, so it is only going to get better.

Another pro of buying a game still in preview is that they cost a little less than the full MSRP when the final game ships, usually something like $5 less than the final MSRP, so you can save some money.   

The downside of playing Game Preview titles is that there’s a high possibility that you’re going to be tired of playing them already by the time the final version of the game actually comes out.  On the plus side, the games don’t have any achievements or gamerscore while they’re in Preview, so coming back to a game once it is final to earn some tasty gamerscore is a good way to lure you back in.  At least for me it is.

What Titles Are Available in Xbox Game Preview?

Games that have already gone through the preview program and have been released as full titles include Elite Dangerous, Sheltered, Prison Architect, The Solus Project, and Layers of Fear. 

Games currently in Game Preview, or are coming soon to the program, include ARK: Survival Evolved, The Long Dark, Subnautica, We Happy Few, Rivals of Aether, and Snooker Nation Championship.  DayZ has been announced, but no word on when that will actually appear.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that the Xbox Game Preview program has been pretty great so far.  It lets gamers actually participate in the development process by giving feedback to developers, and seeing a game change and grow over time is really fantastic.  If you’re interested in an upcoming game that is part of the Game Preview program, there’s no reason not to jump in and check it out.