Whoooooaaaahhhh! Planet Coaster Launches Paid Alpha

I probably would pay to visit an unfinished theme park, but mostly because I can’t imagine a better death than roaring through a loop de loop into a six-twist corkscrew then launching up a ramp to… nowhere, nothing, unfinished track, screaming through the air then landing in the crushing jaws of a still-skinless animatronic dinosaur. I’d be up for that. Let’s start smaller, shall we? You can now pay to create and visit virtual theme parks of your own in an unfinished version of Planet Coaster [official site], as Frontier Developments have started selling alpha access. It’s pricey, mind – more than twice as much as the game will cost when it’s done.

Frontier Developments may be known for space sandbox Elite Dangerous nowadays, but they’ve made oodles of games about building rollercoasters and managing theme parks, from bigguns like RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 to diddyuns like Coaster Crazy. They like rollercoasters. Planet Coaster is the first on PC to sound interesting in a fair while, though. Jake Tucker had a look at the alpha, noting that it’s clearly incomplete but:

“[. . .] what’s here already is a good advertisement for the game, and should give Frontier the opportunity to change anything they want in response to feedback. As someone who has long wanted to build a pretty looking theme park and is happy for now to simply slap down a few rides, this is a rollercoaster I’m already tempted to jump on board.”

Frontier are now selling the ‘Early Bird Alpha Edition’ through their own store for £49.99/$74.99/€67.99. That’ll be updated until the full game launches (at which point it’ll become that), which is due to be this year some time from September to the end of December. However, when it properly launches, it will only cost £19.99/$29.99/€26.99, so this alpha is intended for serious track-heads.

Here’s a video with Frontier explaining the basics of starting a park in the alpha:

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  1. MrFinnishDude says:

    Planet Coaster will be the Cities: Skylines to the Rollercoaster Tycoon World’s SimCity 2013. Mark my words.

    • Ethaor says:

      Ethaor like this

    • trueGamer says:

      We shall wait till both games are released though. These days it seems that building up hype before is more important than the actual release. (sometimes)

  2. Evil Pancakes says:

    Much as I want to play a new RollerCoaster Tycoon that isn’t the new RollerCoaster Tycoon, I’ll pass on paying into the alpha.
    I will buy it on release though. Twice, probably. Once for myself and once more for my niece and nephew. I need to get them to stop playing crap iPad games and get them to play some proper games. And what better game than the same type of game that really got me hooked into gaming (i.e. RCT).

  3. escooler says:

    I love a good rollercoaster game, but the builder looks a bit intense. I appreciate that some people like to go into a lot of detail on the look of things. But i quite like been able to slam down a few shops (pick a theme), a few rides and watch it all go, rather than pick the roofing for every single toilet. The coster builder is where the custom fun happens right.

    • Laini says:

      Yeah, it seems great but I know I don’t have the imagination to make anything really interesting and sometimes you just wanna plonk a thing down and be done with it.
      Thankfully there will be plenty of pre-made shops and things if you don’t want to get too involved in that side of it, and you’ll be able to download other people’s creations from the Steam Workshop.

  4. aircool says:

    Next up, Frontier charge you £100 for an idea scribbled on the back of a fag packet.

    • BobbyDylan says:

      How so? Every £100 alpha has come with gameplay. Also, the idea of paying a premium to be an alpha tester Business model is not unique to FD, since Stardock, Obsidian, Uber Entertainment and others have used it.

  5. Mortivore says:

    Current alpha is in phase one meaning that Coaster and Landscaping haven’t been integrated into the alpha-build yet (which is part of phase two).
    Right now you can experiment with the lanes, decoration, custom buildings and a handfull of flat rides which is alright but doesn’t really yet justify the pricetag (as if it ever does in alpha builds).

    For me the fun part starts with phase two. Not for the coasters but for the landscaping. I loved planning out an attraction in RCT2 whilst landscaping at the same time which (judging from the gameplay videos) is only going to be easier in Planet Coaster.

    • Koshinator says:

      You can access the coaster construction part in the first alpha if you want, they hid it behind a cheatcode due to the unfinished UI and some other missing features. To unlock go to one of the in-game search windows and type in ‘underconstruction’.

  6. Hyena Grin says:

    It used to be that if you are willing to buy-in early as a gesture of faith to a game developer. Evidently now we are expected to pay more for less. Play an unfinished game now for $texas, or wait and play a finished game for half the price. Easy call, unfortunately. Because I would like to support the project, but not to the point of exploitation. =/

    • Hyena Grin says:

      Er, if you bought in early you’d get a discount.

      Blah blah edit button blah.

    • Canadave says:

      It’s because developers want people who buy it early to really care about the game and give them useful feedback, as opposed to people who are predisposed to writing “pithy” 10-word negative reviews on Steam. It’s not like they’re forcing you to buy it now, anyway.

  7. MrLoque says:

    $74.99 to be an alpha tester of an amusement park managing videogame? I mean… seriously? I can see that money for an ambitious and innovative game (Star Citizen for example)… but … this?

    • BobbyDylan says:

      Welcome to the 2016. Stardock charged more for the founders editions of GalCiv 3 and for Star Control.
      People are paying £30 for a ship in WoWs.

      The value you ascribe to a thing isn’t universal. Hell, I can;t see the point in paying £150 for a single piece of DLC for Star Citizen, but each to their own.

      • Andset says:

        I remember when the devs used to pay people to test their games instead of other way around.

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          teije says:

          Careful there grandpa/grandma. Those days are history.

          • DFX2KX says:

            some places still do. If only giving out a few alpha keys for free for testers.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Makes sense, IMHO. Only the people who REALLY want to help test the game can afford it… All the people who would complain about it being an unfinished game are weeded out.

  8. Minglefingler says:

    I’m not a fan of paying (or charging) extra for alpha access but if anyone fancies trying it for 10% off this code should help: GQULJ-FEM69-BMWWS-XF9XU-PCEBD. You’ll need to buy the Early Bird edition at the Frontier store. It’s a one time use code mind you.

  9. Dante80 says:

    The reason for the alpha price as per Frontier is to simply limit the number of testers (thus streamlining support) and also making sure that the people who test are invested in making the game better, not simply playing earlier.

    In other words, they want to effectively limit the signal to noise ratio. I don’t like it personally, but it is not done out of greed I think.

    I’ll definitely buy this on launch if it is good. Lost thousands of hours in the RCT series, and between this and the superlative Parkitect project I think I will waste thousands more..C:

    • DFX2KX says:

      That’s exactly why they did it with ED. And If I’m not mistaken that’s been credited in small part do that game’s really smooth beta and launch.

      • Dante80 says:

        E:D was a little different, since it was a crowdfunded project (partially) that had to keep the Kickstarter pricing in for not alienating early backers.

        PLC is a funded game, it is essentially charging for early access.

    • Minglefingler says:

      One thing to consider is that some of the people who paid extra for access to the Elite beta didn’t have that early access transfer over to Horizons and were required to pay extra if they wanted to play the Horizons beta. So if it was really just about having people who were invested in making the game better then surely there was no need to charge this group twice for beta access?

      • Dante80 says:

        Elite had five KS tiers as far as gameplay access was concerned. Those tiers persisted after the KS project was completed.

        1. Alpha
        2. Premium Beta
        3. Beta
        4. Gamma
        5. Pre-order

        I entered in premium beta. I know, it sounds ridiculous, and it kind of was. That seems to be the norm though with many KS projects (many tiers with different goodies).

        Anyway, anyone backing from the start knew both what the development plan would be, and that Beta+Gamma access did not give you the expansions. With no access to the expansions, how could they participate in the Horizons Beta?

        And, in any case…we are talking about a different project here, with a different monetization and development model. ;)