Can an Early Access Game Like ‘Battlegrounds’ Be Game of the Year?


One of this year's surprise hits might still be "in development" when the year comes to an end. What then?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at


Absolutely it can. What is Game of the Year if not to discuss the most enjoyable gaming experiences of that year?

This latter half of 2017 has been so thoroughly dominated by people talking about and playing PUBG. Any list or discussion that aims to sum up gaming in 2017 can’t omit the most significant experience had by a large majority of people for something as silly as a semantics rule.


You put it on your list.

Not saying they’re the be all of precedent here, but The Game Awards says games eligible must be “commercially released” by a specific date. There may be an Early Access label on it, but anyone can buy PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds for $29.99. That’s commercially released.

Besides, personal Game of the Year lists are already fluid, ranging from numbered to not, from overall to genre-bound, including all sorts of big games and small experiences. You can take some liberties.


If it isn’t Game of the Year, it sure wins in the Best Moment/Content Of The Year. Seeing Waypoint play daily has been really wonderful entertainment to watch. Like every match is different in their own way and that’s so cool.

Personally, I think it can be GOTY because you have to buy it. Sure it isn’t finished, but it is still one of the most enjoyable experiences to have come out this year and I think it belongs on the list.

However, how can you say PUBG is GOTY when we still got Knack 2 coming


I think it should be simple. Is it a game? Yes. Are people having fun with it? Yes. Is it the most fun they’re having this year? Potentially, yes. So yes, this is a contender.

Early access, free to play, cost, DLC, patches, all that stuff shouldn’t matter in the end, it’s just labels. It’s a game, and people are having fun with it, end of story.


“early access” is such a wide category imo since it contains both 1-level completely unfinished skeleton games and PUBG which imo is by all means “complete enough” for a 1.0 outside of a bunch of bugfixes, so that’s tough. i feel like it’s up to each person/site/publication to set the rules for themselves? iirc giantbomb’s rule usually is “early access games are considered ‘released’ when the developer says so” which, while a bit arbitrary, probably cuts out like 5 hours of circular discussion whether early access game x or y should be on a goty list


Any game that can be played to completion should be considered for GOTY in my opinion. The fact that its “early access” doesn’t hinder a player’s enjoyment of the game or the experience therefore, I feel it should be consider alongside the other great titles already released 2017. Let’s be honest, It will probably be on most people GOTY for 2018 also.



I think what matters is if the game, despite still being built with new features and fixes, feels complete than yea it completely ok to put it on a game of the year list. I can understand where people may feel off about it as many things can change with the game till version 1.0 that could make the game worse.


I get why it’s important to have some kind of structure/guideline for what qualifies in a GOTY discussion.

But I think if that gets to a point where we have to ask if PUBG is qualified- when it’s made such an enormous impact and dominated so much of our free time for months, and showing no sign of slowing down- then we need to take a look at the guidelines we’re using.

Something is clearly not working right if a phenomenon like PUBG is disqualified just because its Steam page still has the words Early Access on it. Could it be even better next year? Maybe! But I don’t think it makes sense to base these decisions on trying to predict the future. PUBG is a phenomenon now, in 2017, and that’s all the information we can work with.


I think both options are valid. For the “offical” sites GOTY they should decided on their own. I think if they do put it on their lists though it shouldn’t be valid for 2018 lists though.

Personally I don’t think early access games should be allowed for GOTY. Dead Cells is good right now. It may make a few GOTY lists. I think that game will get so much better though. I hope that sites wont disqualified for 2018 for releasing on early access this year.

Also 2017 is filled with so many games already. Its those games time to shine I feel like. I understand though. PUBG is in the zeitgeist right now. It probably won’t be one year from now. People will still be playing it, but I’m sure some sites won’t play it as much. Some will forget about it.

So at the end of the day you do you. I’ll be over here rambling about GOTY while playing some PUBG.


Whether it’s labelled Early Access or not, this game is out. It has been released. Full stop.

It’s the #1 game on Steam and second only to League of Legends on Twitch. It’s ‘early access-ness’ amounts to loading crashes and some in-game jank. The fundamentals of play are there. And people sure are playing.

The Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds that people are playing right now is the Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds that people are playing right now. Yes that’s a tautology but it applies. What’s in the game is the game. I’d be surprised if official release will do anything to further increase its popularity.

If it’s still in Early Access in December, it’s still a GOTY contender. 2017 is the year PUGB became a phenomenon.


Its a little tricky to me. Personally, if Waypoint decides to do it then I am fine with that, its your list/award.
But I do feel that the tag “Early Access” is in this discussion a way to shield the game for some negative criticism.
I feel like people will overlook certain problems because of an “Early Access” tag.
Would it be ok to have Battlegrounds win the Buggiest/Jankiest game of the year? Or would we say that’s not fair for an early access game.
Like, imagine if Battlegrounds had not been in early access but had come out as a full release, I am sure it would still be popular and sell well, but I also think most people would be more negative on some of the issues the game might have, simply because we judge early access and final release differently.

Therefor I do find it a bit tricky to compare early access games to fully released games.


I think it should be eligible. But I also think that allowing Early Access games also opens up contention to an entire class of games that aren’t considered for GotY; games that have been released for a while and have ongoing updates. No one typically considers Warframe, Dota 2, League of Legends or Guild Wars 2 for GotY after their initial release even though I strongly believe one or more of these have given me GotY-caliber experiences in the years since they’ve been released.

So yeah, put PUBG in contention. But maybe split them into different categories: best released game of year X and best gaming experience in year X.


It’ll be silly if sites don’t revise their rules a bit to allow Battlegrounds a shot. How can you have a long discussion about the games you played in the year of 2017 while tiptoeing around the fact that a large amount of your time was spent on Battlegrounds?

It doesn’t mean you have to allow an early access game onto the list every year.


At this point, what is version 1.0 of a game? Does that even have meaning anymore? Games get so many updates post release these days that I’m not sure that it does. At this point, Battlegrounds is stable and complete enough a game where they could “release” it today, and everything they have planned could still come out as post release updates. The line between not done and done is not as defined as it used to be.


The only thing I’d caution for something like this is how many shots does an early access game get at GOTY? Some scenarios:

  • It is considered, it wins, and then improves greatly next year: does it get another shot?
  • It is considered, it loses, and then improves greatly next year: does it get another shot? It was considered, and traditionally released games, even ones with content patches, often don’t get multiple shots at GOTY.
  • It is not considered until official release, but it was played almost exclusively while it was in early release. This is the scenario Alex Navarro gave when talking about Darkest Dungeon during a recent Beastcast. Because he got most of his enjoyment out of the game the year it was in early access, and basically played none of it the year it was released. He said he didn’t argue for it as vigorously as he would have the previous year. This gives early access games a disadvantage, because they lose their luster over time and distance.
  • It is not considered until official release, and it was mostly played the year of its official release. This lines up with traditionally released games.

Just some things to think about.


It’s that good ol’ slippery slope that I’m afraid of. I totally feel like Battlegrounds is worthy of consideration for GOTY discussion, but I don’t want that to be a foot in the door for other Early Access games going forward. I still carry the mantra that games should be released in a complete state, a “1.0”. It may have to just win “Best Early Access Game of the Year” for now, and hope for consideration in 2018.

It’s gonna be tough competition going up against Kingdom Hearts 3, tho.


This is a slightly tangential argument, but if you think about a game like Dark Souls 2, in which DLC and content were added after its release that addressed complaints about the core game, I begin to struggle to see the firm distinction drawn between that and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. In this moment of console development, shipping a game isn’t the end of its development. Do you rate Bloodborne on how it was at launch or how it was in December 2015 (at which point, substantial improvements had been made on issues like load times)?

While these are old questions at this point, this issue sometimes flares up with new games (e.g. the controversy around Mass Effect Andromeda after they said they would be patching it to improve it) and I do feel that it’s pertinent to the Early Access question. As someone who doesn’t draw a firm line between ‘narrative’ tweaks and gameplay improvements, I feel like EA games should definitely ‘count’, even if they don’t hit 1.0 in the year of release. Major EA games have been scuttled off GOTY lists for being released in January/February after the zeitgiest has passed them by, which is an awful shame.


that’s a really good point about the DLC/patches i think. i wanted to mention that but i couldn’t find a way to word it. my example of something like that would be Destiny, which had pretty mediocre reception until later updates iirc.


Oh yeah, regarding patches-- I just realized how many times I thought “I should wait for them to fix it” about already-released games in the last few years.

Thanks to production schedules speeding games out and devs having a plan to continue working on the games after release, if you’re buying a game on launch day, you can consider that early-access…

Not that it’s bad, I am glad games don’t just get abandoned if they don’t come out right. It’s just different.