I know - I actually had to go check whether Wargaming remade World of Warplanes behind my back. It turns out that the game's arrival on Steam's Early Access is meant to help the dev iterate on World of Warplanes' fresh new client.
Even though Wargaming's WWII fighter jet simulation dates almost as far back the company's golden goose World of Tanks, World of Warplanes never really reached the heights it was expected to, no pun intended. Wargaming stated on several occasions that the game "simply flopped", but they never ended up pulling the plug.
Explaining the reasoning behind World of Warplane's arrival on Steam's Early Access, the company said that the Steam version "has a new game client that needs to be checked." It will remain in Early Access for up to 6 months, which will depend on feedback.
Other than the client though, there are no discernable differences between the regular and Steam versions of World of Warplanes. If you're looking to have a go, you'll be glad to hear that Wargaming already posted a bunch of tutorials and newb-friendly resources on the game's Steam page.
Instead of pulling the plug, Wargaming seem to have upped their efforts on the game lately. They even managed to get Bruce Dickinson, yes the Bruce Dickinson, to share some of his knowledge and expertise in the Bruce Dickinson's Warplanes Diaries series. If you didn't catch it - you totally should because the man is every bit as knowledgeable as he is metal savvy.
Even though the game's Early Access seems but a minor technicality in terms of game development, Steam should theoretically provide an influx of fresh players, no matter how small. Hopefully, Wargaming will find a way to keep them around, which in World of Warplane's case hasn't gone as well as they'd planned.
Ironically enough, back when it was announced, I was confident it will blow World of Tanks and World of Warships out of the water. In the meantime I realised that rushing a game out the door so as to capitalise on whatever moniker comes after 'World of' is definitely not a winning formula.