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Respawn: Purchasable Betas

Posted Thu, Dec 19, 2013 by Xerin

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So DayZ was released with an early alpha for $29.99 and it has sold 172,500 copies. That is a total sum of about five million dollars split between them and Gabe Newall. Fun fact about DayZ’s launch is that it’s an early alpha which means it’s buggy and incomplete, so those buying into it are buying into… pretty much an alpha test.

Why are games moving toward this trend? I’m getting very tired of it honestly. It’s like the Christmas creep when you see Christmas trees for sale in October. There is no point in selling copies of a game in its alpha. I know there are a lot of people out there that are like “but but but I want to get my hands on it early!” and then here is where the problem comes in. You get your hands on the game early, everyone gets their hands on the game early, the game has now officially been sold to people, and the game barely has any development in it. Now, every few months, the developers can bother to add in a few extra details here and there and call it an update, drawing more people into purchasing the game.

At some point, like games like Towns, the development just sort of updates itself once a year or so with a few new features and calls it a day. The game is so very far from complete, but has been for sale forever. I honestly feel like playing it a bit to see the couple of new things, but at the same time it’s just not done.

Then games like Starbound come out and they’re rather complete, but rather not complete. They create this addictive culture around the game where players expect updates and new features. Things like character wipes draw the community into shambles as they all play the game assuming it’s the real thing.

This is a close analogy to the MMO industry where most MMOs are released in the beta phase, with some incentive to play (usually free) that gives players a reason to deal with the bugs and the testing to get the game ready for prime time. Of course, with MMOs it comes in many flavors. There are the betas in earnest, much like the World of Warcraft where the intent is the community’s happiness.

Then the are betas like Neverwinter where it’s more or less them launching the game and trying to get two rounds of press for it. This isn’t bad, no, it gives them the loss of liability if the game isn’t perfect, but at the same time if the cash shop is in the game, I feel like it isn’t a beta.

Then there are the nefarious betas where it’s essentially a giant cash grab. I won’t mention names because I don’t like calling developers nefarious willy nilly in a on-off semi-daily column of mine, but you know who you are. It’s when you launch your game as a complete and total alpha with little to no testing, install a cash shop, and offer solutions to bugs and problems through purchases.

Ah well, one thing is true though is that MMOs are living products and the more developers embrace it (like ArenaNet and GW2) the more the industry will advance. Until then, I suggest avoiding non-MMOs marked as purchasable betas until you research just how far they are in development. See ya Friday!

Never forget Warhammer Online.

Warhammer

I still don't own a PS4 ;-; Still

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