Valve Software today revealed a new feature for Steam users called "Early Access" which allows consumers to roll the dice and buy a game still in development and play it early. Valve calls this an opportunity to "go behind the scenes" and experience the development cycle of games first-hand. They'll also be able to interact with game developers and provide the feedback that could potentially make the game better.
The concept of paying for and playing a game early is not unheard of, but this is the first time that a platform has gotten together with a group of developers to offer it to the general public.
The first 12 games available via Early Access are 1... 2... 3... KICK IT! (Drop That Beat Like an Ugly Baby), Arma 3, Drunken Robot Pornography, Gear Up, Gnomoria, Kenshi, Kerbal Space Program, Kinetic Void, Patterns, Prison Architect, StarForge and Under the Ocean. No doubt more will be added as the program gets more popular.
Find out more at store.steampowered.com/earlyaccessfaq.