We've had a lot of people weigh in for Early Access, so I'll play devil's advocate for a moment to explain the cons of doing so, and why I think EA is worth doing anyway
1. Early Access success stories are planned around Early Access. Don't Starve, Grim Dawn, Prison Architect and rest of the sordid lot use Greenlight and Early Access to build their community and their brand over a period of years
; it's as much the centerpiece of their marketing strategy as it is their product. Individual players will do for a huge amount of marketing for you if they feel attached to the game. It's slow and steady and gets you players (and payers) over time based on positive word of mouth.
2. IMPORTANT, THIS COULD BE DAMNING
You don't have an EA content model in place. Ever notice how Terraria/ARK/Minecraft/etc have updates that include a bunch of new content for the early and midgame? This is to encourage players to start new games, which gets them to stay with the game longer. That won't happen with SBR. You'll be finishing the game (or making changes to the early experience rather than the content), so returning players will pick up from old save files to see the new content instead of going back to the start to see the new content. Going back to point one, they'll do less marketing for you because they'll spend less time with the game.
3. You're constrained in what major changes you can make without irritating the paid players. Early Access darling Darkest Dungeon added a "corpse" mechanic to prevent cheesing mage encounters, and the fanbase rioted. It got so bad that it made some longtime fans quit the game, and stayed gone even after the developers created a separate game mode without the difficulty features. Make major balance adjustments against the player and the monkeys come out of the closet.
3. As has been noted before, EA releases are treated like second class releases when put against "actual" releases. It makes sense since they aren't done. The immediate marketing buzz won't be as high as a one and done release and will detract from the buzz that could happen during the actual release. Like, is anyone even talking about Prison Architect asides from RPS?
5. Public perception of Early Access isn't good. There are individual successes but the average release quality is low and there have been a few incidents that poisoned the well (hi SBDF-9!). Lacking a EA-ready content plan as per 1 and 4 a lot of people will choose to pass on this until release, which could mean they'll skip it entirely without lots of glowing reviews.
I recommend Early Access for one reason: Stars Beyond Reach isn't ready for release. I certainly believe it can be finished by November, but there's more to a release than the game being done. I think we'll be testing right up until the 18th, and you've made very clear what you think of trendsetters and reviewers playing unfinished code. Same for marketing, you aren't willing to start until you have the release candidate in sight. That's a noble idea, but as it stands any marketing you attempt to do in advance of a November release is going to get whited out by the ridiculous release schedule. If it's part of an ongoing marketing plan then it stands a chance of catching attention.
November is TOXIC
. So release EA now and do the final release in *deep breath* the second half of January. That gets you out of the way of the major releases and three whole Steam sales. You get a positive (if small) income stream and building word of mouth, more than enough time to do marketing on your own terms (though I'd still recommend starting soon), it gives reviewers a comfortable margin for reviewing, and enough time to squash any bugs that we don't catch.
If you finish early? Release early! Or keep to the date and just start working on Life at the End of the Universe.
Regardless. My $0.02.
EDIT: Holy mother of god this exploded.