Hades 2’s Surprise Release Reminds Us That Early Access Can Be a Good Thing

Hades 2's surprise release is a valuable reminder that Early Access doesn't always have to be a bad thing.

Hades 2
Photo: Supergiant Games

Developer Supergiant Games shocked just about everyone today by announcing that they have decided to release Hades 2 via Steam Early Access…well, earlier than anyone anticipated.

“We designed the original Hades for Early Access from the ground up, and the same is true for Hades II, our first-ever sequel,” Says Supergiant via Hades 2‘s Steam page. “We believe everything about this game benefits from ongoing feedback, from the balancing to the storytelling.”

There is no word on when Hades 2 will exit Early Access, but Supergiant Games says they “expect Hades II to be in Early Access development at least through the end of 2024.” There is also currently no word on when Hades 2 may be ported to consoles, though it’s highly unlikely we’ll see any console versions of the game until that Early Access period is over. At least that’s the release model Supergiant used for the original Hades (though we likely won’t have to wait nearly a year for the console ports of Hades 2 as we did the console ports of the retail version of Hades).

Still, that precedent that Supergiant cited in the above statement may be the most important part of this story. For those who don’t know, Hades wasn’t just another Early Access title; it was a nearly complete game that simply debuted via Early Access. From there, Supergiant spent over a year improving that already impressive initial version of that title according to player feedback (and their ever-growing internal ambitions).

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So far, Hades 2 is following that same Early Access model, substantial initial content offerings and all. This Early Access version of Hades 2 doesn’t include the final game’s “true ending,” and it currently lacks the “key areas, characters, foes, narrative events, and systems” that will eventually be found in the final game. Otherwise, it offers a sizeable version of one of the year’s biggest games that can be purchased for a relatively meager $29.99. Interstingly, that price point continues the surprising trend of 2024’s best games debuting for less than $50.

While some will understandably prefer to wait to buy Hades 2 until they can experience something closer to the complete version of the game, it’s hard not to see this early release as a merciful morsel for starving gamers everywhere.

We’re currently in the middle of one of the worst dry seasons for new video game releases in recent years. While a few surprise releases (most notably, Helldivers 2 and Palworld) have managed to keep things interesting, things have been grim for the last couple of months and aren’t shaping up to improve much in the immediate future. Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree, Star Wars Outlaws, and Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II look to carry a lot of new release weight through August. Beyond that…well, we’re hoping for more of those lovely surprise hits or a few unexpected release date announcements to fill out what is shaping up to be the year when elongated production cycles, questionable practices, and external issues finally catch up with the video game industry in a public-facing way.

Hades 2 not only gives games a major new release to enjoy during an otherwise slow couple of months but perhaps offers a new way to look at the entire Early Access system. Much like Larian Studios did when they moved Baldur’s Gate 3‘s official release up a few weeks to avoid competing with Starfield and other major new releases, Supergiant is seemingly dropping Hades 2 at a time when it will benefit most from a relative lack of competition and the free time that lack of competition offers to gamers everywhere.

More importantly, both of those Early Access games (and the original Hades) initially offer something that already feels more worthwhile than many so-called new releases that clearly needed more time in the oven. By being a little more transparent about the state of their game, Supergiant gets a worthwhile version of their next big project out to the public at an optimal time and a reduced price. It’s a remarkable display of some of the ideal benefits of the Early Access concept.

No, it’s not a perfect model, and no, Hades 2 is not currently the game it will hopefully one day grow to be. Still, at a time when major new releases feel practically endangered as the result of numerous industry problems, it’s nice to see studios treat Early Access as a possible solution to those problems rather than a symptom of bigger issues.

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