Sunday, 9 November 2014

2014: Year Of The Beta


Image from whatsyourtagblog.com

With Betas and Alphas becoming more prominent thanks to their win-win style of the developers getting their game advertised and the consumers being able to play a game early for free, a lot more decisions in development have been made thanks to the reception from players who have tested the game. 2014 has been the year of the beta, and here's why.

Perhaps the biggest and most notable beta of the year was the Battlefield Hardline beta launched at E3, mainly for all the wrong reasons. People were underwhelmed, mainly because of the lack of innovation they felt, and the fact that it just seemed like Battlefield 4 with a Cops n' Robbers skin. "But surely that should mean that 2014 isn't the year of the beta if the betas were bad!" I hear no one say. Well, that person may be right, but would Battlefield Hardline have been delayed were it not for the bad beta reception? Once again, the beta worked for both parties: the developers could get a better game out and please the community, and the consumers don't waste their money on launch day.

But what about times betas have worked? One huge example is the Destiny Beta: it started off closed, cutting some people out so that they were starved of gameplay until the game came out, then surprised them by opening it up, winning the hearts of many a player. The beta got a good reception, Bungie got more people excited and were able to stress-test their servers and the consumers were able to make a better decision about whether to buy it or not. It gave Playstation a bit of leverage, as PS4 was the first platform the Destiny Beta hit, and the advertising by Bungie stated that Playstation consoles were the best place to play it.

Betas worked at the other end of the console spectrum, too: the Titanfall beta kickstarted the push by Microsoft to recover from the launch of the Xbox One after they came out the losers. It swayed many people to buy the Xbox One, making Titanfall a system-seller and getting Respawn more sales. Sometimes, the little things like exclusive items and free demos or betas can sway the console war in different directions.

We as the consumers have a lot more power in the games industry now. Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight let us pick and choose the games we want; it's the Natural Selection of games. Social networks mean that we can be more vocal and get our opinions across. Betas and Alphas are just another way for us to sway the industry in a way that benefits us. Sure, we can also sway the industry negatively too, namely by paying for and encouraging microtransactions, but some (stupid and financially blind) people do like accelerating progress in games with money.

Anyways, the point is: more prominent Betas mean that we can shape games how we want.

Plus they're free, so Mr Wallet can be saved from malnourishment.

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