Unlike PC gamers, console owners can't buy games while they're still in alpha or beta. That may change on the PS4 in the future, though.
Sony Computer Entertainment America's Adam Boyes told Gamasutra that they're considering an early access program, where developers can sell games before they go gold.
"That’s one of the massive conversations we have internally -- that, at what point does [a game meet standards of release]?" Boyes said. "We still at some point ensure that we're being mindful of the consumer. We don't want somebody to stumble across that title and expect a full product, and have a negative experience."
Steam has proved that there's a market for alpha and beta versions of games. Five of the store's current ten top-selling games are Steam Early Access titles. Open-world survival games DayZ and Rust are the most notable success stories, staying in the top 10 since their launch last December.
Boyes says that some PS4 gamers may be willing to buy in-development games as well.
"There are different types of people. There people who always back games, enjoy Kickstarters, try things that they know aren't finished but are willing to help make better. I remember playing Rust and laughing hysterically. And there were some things that weren't finished, but I had a ton of fun. It was super intense."
There's some precedence for selling incomplete games on PlayStation consoles. MMO shooter Dust 514 received a paid beta on PS3. Players could enter for a chance to win a key or guarantee access by spending $20.
Sony still has to work out how to make early access work on PS4, though. They're going to have to develop different standards for games only in alpha or beta.
"We obviously have our tech requirement checklist that people have to adhere to. So we're internally discussing, what does that list look like this? What are the caveats? Stuff like this. So it's still a project that a lot of minds are considering. No details yet, but it's something on the top of my mind every day."
An early access program would be a boon to the PS4. It would let the console to receive games like DayZ that are popular in spite of their protracted development. Not everyone's going to have the patience to play works-in-progress but there's plenty who would put up with bugs for the chance to play a game sooner than usual. Sony just has to make sure that early access games are clearly marked as such.
The downside to a PS4 early access program, though, is the cold reality that some games will never be finished. Developers may shut down or abandon projects before they go gold. Steam doesn't offer refunds for cancelled early access games. Sony's going to have to decide whether they'll follow suit or let players get their money back when games die in development.