Something about Ysharros’ post about The Secret World beta has been idling at the back of my mind since I read it. A little nagging irritant of a thought, that demands attention, only to dodge behind some other matter when I turn my mind’s eye towards it. This thought has lurked at the periphery for a few hours, until a few minutes ago, when, whilst making custard, I pinned the little sod down and forced it to give me the skinny.
Games that I beta test are less likely to get my subscription. Or even get bought, and be played for that first month. This is probably not news, but I find it interesting nonetheless.
I started playing MMOs in 2001 when I bought Anarchy Online (though I had been active in MUDs, MUSHes and MOOs prior to that). I bought it, a couple of months after release, without ever having played it. It looked interesting; I loved the idea of the politics, and a persistent world seemed kinda fun. It was, and it got me hooked. In 2003 I beta tested the Shadowlands expansion, and within a couple of months I had quit playing AO on an extended break. I would go back to it for a couple of months thereafter, but never again would it have the same hold over me. Certainly, that I’d seen much of the Shadowlands prior to release was a factor, but it was by no means the entire reason. After all, my main was at level cap, whilst my beta toon was a starting character.
I beta tested Neocron – and never played it after release (it was a horrid game). I beta’ed Asheron’s Call 2; A Tale in the Desert; The Saga of Ryzom; Earth and Beyond; and Star Wars: Galaxies. None of them saw a penny of my money. I played Lineage 2 in beta, and enjoyed it. When it was released, I subscribed, and within a month had cancelled my sub. A grindy game was made all the less appealing by having to repeat the same grind I’d already completed. I tested Guild Wars too, and actually bought the game box at release – played it for a week, and retired bored from it. Aion recently got beta’ed – but it wasn’t compelling enough (or at all) for me to spend any hard earned on it. The same with Champions. I downloaded the beta of Gatheryn, but bugs prevented me from actually doing anything with it – reported them, but then didn’t bother. I actually gave away my beta key for Wrath of the Lich King to avoid any such problems!
The games I have played for any length of time are interesting. Let’s discount WoW – its horrendously addictive; I joined a guild full of my mates; and it came on a massive recommendation. I didn’t beta test Pirates of the Burning Sea, yet invested about 8 months of play time into it. OK, so it was a game that interested me anyway – the age of sail is a fascinating time – but I wonder whether I’d have played as long had I tested the game. Eve is an interesting case – I did beta test it back in 2003, but it didn’t grab me and i gave up on it. It would be this year, 6 years later, that I’d pick it up again and get hooked. 6 years to get over the beta test?
So, are these factors linked? After all, correlation is not cause. Is it the fact that a beta exposes me to the content ahead of time, and I’m just not interested in repeating that content again? Well, countless alliance WoW alts would suggest that repetition alone is not enough of a barrier for me. And I generally only play one race/class combo in beta – so it’s not as if there aren’t different areas and content open to me. So is it investment? If I pay for a game, am I more likely to persevere with it? Well possibly, but I have many offline games here that I’ve paid for and never played, and yet I continue to repeat play certain games. Are offline games subject to the same rules, even? Is my beta-block to do with seeing the game in an incomplete and bugged form? Well, let’s not forget that I played AO for years; a more incomplete and bugged release you’d be hard pressed to find – it earned the game a place in MMO infamy. Lastly, is it simply that the games that interest me are the ones that I buy, and I beta test the rest? I don’t think so.
I’m not sure that I have a conclusion for you. It’s probably a composite of all of these things and a few that I’ve not thought of yet. But in the light of these thoughts, I turn back to the pay-beta that Funcom are creating for the Secret World. And if there are many people like me out there, then they are probably wise. Because the chances are that if they don’t get their money pre-beta, they may not get it at all.
NB for Ragnar and/or any others from Funcom: I’m only kidding! I’ll buy your game, even after a beta… g’wan…. let me in… you know you wanna…