Software and Games: What is an Alpha Version?

When it comes to software and its development, it's not uncommon to hear and read about alpha versions, beta versions, early access, the full release, various build versions, and so on. But what should you imagine? What does z. B. Alpha version in terms of a software, app or video game? You will find the answer to this question in this guide. In further blog posts I will also give you information on terms such as "beta version", "early access" and the like. 

What is an alpha version? In the case of software and video games, one speaks of an alpha when the basic structure and the first functions are available. But nothing is finished yet, the main purpose of the app cannot be fulfilled 100% yet and there are probably still errors and bugs.

What is an alpha version? In the case of software and video games, one speaks of an alpha when the basic structure and the first functions are available. But nothing is finished yet, the main purpose of the app cannot be fulfilled 100% yet and there are probably still errors and bugs.

What does alpha version mean in software and video games?

One speaks of an alpha version when it is about unfinished software that is offered to third parties for testing for the first time. Before that, it's called pre-alpha, which describes any state before testing by outsiders. So if a demonstration model / prototype has become working software and its basic structure is to be tried out by a larger group, it will be released as Alpha. Individual functions or modules may be missing. Bugs and other errors can also occur. The alpha version is therefore not yet intended to fully fulfill the purpose intended with the software.

Why is software released as an alpha version?

Now one can ask why a piece of software or a game is released in an unfinished state or even sold. With the download offer of an alpha, the developers usually pursue two major goals:

  1. Testing of the software and corresponding feedback from (potential) users so that improvements can be made in further development
  2. Financing of the coming development stages up to the finished product, so that the development does not falter or stop at some point for financial reasons

With regard to game development, but also to further software development, independent indie developers in particular release their software and games as alpha downloads. The advantages for the testers are usually that they get the program cheaper than the later release version and that they can make requests for functions or content with their feedback.

What are the development stages before and after the alpha version?

As mentioned above, everything before the software version described here is referred to as "Pre-Alpha". From the first idea to sketches to the creation of the first modules and mockups for presentation to investors, everything can happen here. After the "alpha" comes the "beta". One Beta version is not clearly defined, but it contains all the essential components of the intended product, but still needs to be tested for errors. This is followed by "Release Candidate" or "Prerelease" and finally "Release", i.e. the version that will be published (version 1.0, so to speak). Additional versions result from updates and upgrades.

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