Maybe someday we'll learn that using a beta test as a free demo is a bad, bad idea.
In a recent interview with Gamasutra, Richard Garriot (also known as Tabula Rasa's General British) suggested that the game was harmed by allowing too many beta testers into the testing phases of the game.
Specifically, I think the formal marketing did fine, he replied. "They let people know the game existed, and was coming out. I actually think the biggest mistake was made not by the marketing department, but by the development team. We invited too many people into the beta when the game was still too broken.
We burned out some quantity of our beta-testers when the game wasnt yet fun," he said, adding, "As weve begun to sell the game, the people who hadnt participated in the beta became our fast early-adopters.
He continued, And the people who did participate in the beta, weve had to go back to and say look, look, we promise: we know it wasnt fun two months ago, but we fixed all that. Really, come try it again. Weve had to go out and develop free programs to invite those people back for free before they go buy it. So the beta process, which we used to think of as a QA process, is really a marketing process.
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