Insight: Should betas be exclusive?

12 10 2010

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As is the case with most recent upcoming titles for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 games, betas are often the way a developer tests its game with the public and gets gamers talking.

The Assassin's Creed Brotherhood beta was recently made available to Playstation Plus users this month.

Much like a soft opening, a beta is a period in which gamers can play a (generally) multiplayer facet of a given game before the game is actually released. This is different from a demo in that the gamers actually are testing the software being put out, rather than just sampling the finished product. Betas are a way for developers to stress test servers, find any potential bugs in the game play, and overall get a feel for how well the game works with a large quantity of players.

These betas are often exclusive to certain gamers through pre-orders of a certain game, contests for beta keys, or being apart of a certain subscription service.

But should these betas be exclusive at all?

If the idea behind a beta is to find the potential faults for the developers to fix for the final product, wouldn’t it make sense to open the beta for as many users as possible? This not only would give a “realistic” amount of players onto the game, but would also give the game ample recognition in the gaming world due to its availability. One such example would be the Uncharted 2 open beta, which allowed unlimited users to play the multiplayer facet of the game before it released in September 2009.

The Halo 3 beta was exclusively packaged with copies of Crackdown.

On the other hand however, betas also function well in their exclusivity as a marketing tool. Many beta keys are distributed as a part of game per-orders or purchases. An example of this is the game Crackdown, which was packaged with a beta key for Halo 3 at the time, serving as an additional bonus for purchasing the game. This could function as well for marketing high tier subscription services, as is the case with the Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood beta being made available to Playstation Plus subscribers this month.

Officials at THQ are asking players who participate in the Red Faction: Battlegrounds beta to give feedback on the game.

Another point for their exclusivity is the argument that the gamers who are truly interested in the upcoming game, would actively seek out the beta in order to further the game’s progress, as opposed to just any random gamers playing the beta. One such example of this would be the Red Faction: Battlegrounds beta, for which developers at THQ are asking for participants to actively give feedback and report bugs found in the game as they play.

FINAL THOUGHT:

Betas have continued to gain popularity amongst the gaming community, almost to the point where the announcement of a beta (such as Gears of War 3) is just as exciting as a release date for the game itself. I think that these betas can function as a great tool for developers and benefit the end product in the long run, but if exclusivity is pushed too much, it could serve to turn some players off of a game entirely.

What do you guys think? Should betas remain exclusive or should there be more open ones for all users to try?

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