Back in the day a beta invite was a rare thing. Limited “external” testers to a game not released yet. Almost always bound by an NDA so they were not often known or talked about. Betas had 1 purpose, that was the testing and reporting of bugs present in the game. Public betas were a thing not done and if they were done they were for server-stability testing or by very small indies.
Welcome to a couple of years later and now, as I think everyone knows, Betas are released every other week. It’s still done by small game-studios and by gigantic colossi like Activision, EA and Ubisoft.
It must be stated that smaller studios use it as a way of reducing costs. Since lets be fair here, the enthusiast player is a lot cheaper than a game tester.
But the more interesting “betas” to talk about is the ones run by the big ones. These betas do not really exist as a way to test the game, for the most part, but rather as a way to advertise the game. The “demo” went out of the door and we made room for the “beta”. This switcheroo however did make people more excited for this “early playing” of the game… people feel the need to try out the game during the beta to see if it is worth buying the game once it releases.
But there in lies the problem. Players no longer treat betas as betas, since most of them aren’t. But when then finally a game developer decides to release a proper beta because there’s testing to be done, people complain about it being broken and that they won’t buy it because of that!
People have started seeing Betas as a Demo and as such publishers have started seeing it as a marketing tool. Betas show a very vertical slice of a game, the best, a showcase for the game. This should not be the case, this is the purpose of the (extinct) demo.
It has become so bad that developers need to take precautions when they do release a real public-beta. Some Developers feel the need to specify that they are running a “real-beta”. But even crazier is the pushing back of the BETA release for the Division and instead calling the current beta a “Alpha” and put it under NDA. Just to protect the potential showing of broken gameplay… The thing that you should be expecting in a Beta.
Well, I think that is enough about the state of Betas right now…
Do you guys enjoy betas? Do you think betas should be used for testing or that they should be treated like the Demos they are? Let us know in the comments below!
Actually, later today will see the release of a CBT with included buy-in founder packs. Ghost in the Shell – First Assault Online which we’ll on Games Played! will of-course cover!