The Anacrusis, developed by Stray Bombay and co-founded by Chet Faliszek, a former Left 4 Dead developer, is a co-op swarm shooter that has recently entered Steam Early Access. However, Faliszek has expressed his dissatisfaction with the Early Access system and how player counts are perceived by both Steam and the gaming community. In a post on LinkedIn, he mentioned that the way player numbers are counted, and the subsequent response from the community, has led him to vow never to participate in Early Access again.

Faliszek points out the discrepancy between the player count reported by SteamDB and the actual number of players in The Anacrusis. He mentions that SteamDB may show a mere “1 player yesterday” when in reality there were “10,000” players. This discrepancy can be attributed to several factors, including cross-play and how player numbers are counted, especially for smaller games.

The inaccurate player count statistics can be damaging to developers, as they are often used as ammunition against games that fall below a certain threshold. Faliszek expresses frustration with the fact that no matter the growth and increasing number of players in The Anacrusis, the false narrative of a “dead game” persists due to unreliable player count data. This not only undermines the Early Access model but also hinders the progress of smaller developers who rely on community feedback during game development.

While Faliszek may have been dissatisfied with the player count reporting, he still sees the value in Early Access as a platform for gathering feedback from players. The Anacrusis launched in January 2022 and has received numerous updates since then, with the development team actively listening to and implementing player suggestions. Early Access provides an opportunity for developers to refine and improve their games based on real-time player experiences.

The fixation on player counts extends beyond Steam and into the realm of games media. A recent example of this is the comparison between Starfield and Skyrim, where the former was portrayed as having fewer players than the latter. However, this comparison fails to acknowledge the impact of Skyrim’s age and long-term support, along with frequent discounts, which have contributed to its enduring popularity. The focus on player counts as a measure of a game’s worth overlooks the fact that good art does not always equate to mainstream popularity.

In the case of The Anacrusis, player counts are more relevant due to its co-op nature. However, they still do not provide a definitive judgment on the game’s quality or whether it is worth players’ time. The frustrations expressed by Faliszek highlight the need to shift the focus away from inaccurate player count statistics and toward the game’s actual mechanics, gameplay experience, and community feedback.

The Anacrusis serves as a reminder that player counts can be misleading and should not be the sole indicator of a game’s success or potential. Developers like Stray Bombay benefit from Early Access because it allows them to refine their games based on player feedback. However, the negative impact of inaccurate player count reporting highlights the need for a more nuanced and thoughtful approach to evaluating games. By focusing on gameplay, artistry, and community engagement, players can make better-informed decisions about the games they choose to support.

The Anacrusis and its journey through Early Access shed light on the flaws in the system’s player count reporting and the negative consequences it can have on developers. It is time to reassess the significance of player counts and focus on the true value of games as cultural and artistic experiences.

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