Because I was subscribed at the right time, I had access to Star Wars: The Old Republic‘s next major story chapter two days early. That’s good… insofar as it let me clear it two days early. The same content existed whether or not I could log in and start playing that. There was nothing additional. I got to see it sooner, but it also meant I got to be finished with it sooner.
Pre-ordering Heavensward last year meant that I got to download and play the expansion earlier than those who did not pre-order it. Which mostly meant that I was in the same crush of everyone else playing it, with one of my friends even looking distraught because she knew she wouldn’t be able to afford the expansion early enough for the pre-order benefit. It was “early access” only insofar as it made the de facto launch date for most of the game’s players several days earlier than the “official” launch.
Don’t get me wrong – I understand why companies give early access to content as a reward, especially since it doesn’t involve much additional work for the developers. Heck, I’m usually first out of the gate to take advantage of that early access, and not just because it’s my job. But I also see it as a way to ensure that a game’s biggest fans get finished and bored with new content faster than anyone else. What do you think? Is early access to content a good thing in MMOs?