Jäsøn is an episodic movie series that just popped up on Steam. Or at least, it claims to be. It’s in Early Access, which for now means words on digital paper. For sale. For actual money.
Described as a “satirical webserial about a wannabe serial killer” that unravels “the ethical, moral & sociological threads that we tangle with every day in a world over-saturated with media violence,” Jäsøn is currently a $6.99 notepad document that comes with a few sparse behind-the-scenes materials. To be clear, when you click the “launch” button in the Steam client, it opens a brief notepad document. That’s it. If you go digging through Jäsøn’s steamapps/common folder, you can also find a bit of music, some promo images, a short pilot script, and an even shorter storyboard. Barebones barely even begins to describe it.
Here’s the filmmaker’s rationale:
“We are about the (sic) start production of our web series and as we go along, we want to engage our audience, involve you into our process of creation, and let you see more than an audience normally would. We like to break moulds when it comes to the structures of storytelling and the way we approach our creation, which is why we wanted to give Early Access a try. And there is a lot of added benefit, for you and us.”
“While we will produce Jäsøn regardless of Early Access sales, for indie filmmakers, budget can be a struggle, and every little bit helps to increase the quality and adds options. That means, whatever we make during Early Access, will be used to enhance and further the production value for Jäsøn—and thus make it better for you.”
In time, the filmmaker adds, Early Access buyers will gain access to all 13 episodes of season one (a week early, no less) as well as further opportunities to suckle at the production’s behind-the-scenes teet. So, in theory, that steamapps/common folder will not be a barren content void forever.
Jäsøn is effectively using Steam Early Access like a crowdfunding platform to “enhance” a series that, apparently, will be finished regardless. That’d be perfectly OK in this age of crowdfunded everything, except that a) Jäsøn still shows up alongside countless other games, movies, and pieces of software that offer something tangible, b) it gives no warning that you’re literally just getting a few documents at the moment, and c) even if Steam Early Access regularly hosted crowdfunding efforts (which it does not, and to my knowledge, never has), this one feels shoddy and—perhaps fittingly, given the subject matter—poorly executed.
Beyond the basic description, there’s a not-exactly-promising announcement video, some extremely brief teasers that slowly pan over our intrepid (???) hero, and a single chain of super rough storyboard images. That’s... that’s The Whole Thing.
Maybe this project will prove clever, interesting, and introspective in the long run, but as is, it’s a blood-spattered mess. I’ve never gotten the impression Valve intends for Steam Early Access to be a refuge for Kickstarter non-starters, and if they did, I imagine they’d signpost it waaaaaay better than this. I’ve reached out to Valve to find out whether they fully understood that they greenlit a glass-boned skeleton of a thing, or if this one slipped past their sensors. In the meantime, exercise caution.
Update: Valve got in touch to let me know that they’ve changed Jäsøn’s Steam page from Early Access to “coming soon.” A rep explained:
“We’ve updated the page to be a Coming Soon display. Those who have already ordered this series may ask for a refund until the content is made available. We apologize for the wrinkle as we work through the extension of Early Access to linear content.”
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