I’ve seen attitudes about alphas and betas ranging all over the board, so lets be clear where I stand before we dive into my view of a different path.
First; Paid alphas and betas are a joke. If your charging for your game, YOUR game is effectively released for me. In an era of soft-launches (an utter nonsensical bullshit marketing term), anytime a company takes money and you get to play; that’s buying the game (irregardless of whatever “condition” it is in). The only difference is Kickstarter, where they are rewarding you for supporting the games development. I’m cool with early access if you are willing to agree and support the developers vision.
Second; NDA’s are also utter bullshit. NDA’s are for the company employees making a game. That’s all of whom it should encompass, period. I applaud EQ:Next: Landmark (lol @ colon usage) for dropping the NDA because they effectively launched their product yesterday. No live product has an NDA on it (well.. except the one I was testing a year ago.. cough) and there’s a reason. People expect to be able to talk about a product, especially after you spent money on it. No other industry in the world pulls this shit. You don’t go out and buy a 12 pack of beer under the express restriction that you never talk about said beer until a date far in the future. Why should gaming be different?
EQNL’s NDA drop just proves my point. Companies willing to take a risk are frequently rewarded. I haven’t seen any negative press about EQ Landmark yet. User comments are excited. Blog posts are mostly positive (excluding mine). The question remains the other titles that are coming up; Wildstar and The Elder Scrolls Online. Jewel and Leo both point out here and here that titles such as these are in a lot of trouble if they can’t trust user feedback escaping into the wild only a month or so before launch. HARD LAUNCH. That’s pretty fucking scary. If I was an investor in those companies I’d be crawling the walls looking for a good reason why.
Or do we know that reason? (The games are going to suck ass and they fucking know it?) Not that I haven’t been pretty verbose around these titles already, but just you wait until the NDA drops on those games.
What should they do?
Aha! You read it, which is just like you asking it. So therefore I get to answer the question. Here’s the idea. Don’t tell me about your game until one month before your hard launch. I want a complete press blackout about your title. No press releases, no almost daily press releases containing a bunch of garbage (Pantheon looking at you….), just a few months before launch start mysteriously tweeting about an upcoming title announcement. Then at that announcement, tell people they can pre-order the game and it comes out in 30 days.
How fucking cool would that be.
EQNext. Hi guys, take a look at this super sweet sandbox game we’ve been working on. Your going to be able to buy it and play it in 30 days.
The internet would literally shit itself at a triple AAA title being concealed from the public. The fervor the public would have over being shown the hottest damn title, combined with the fact its coming out in 30 days? Talk about a media storm that would ride you right through release and likely beyond. As a company you’d probably have gaming sites talking about your game for 2 months straight if not longer.
Why don’t they do this?
Part of the reason is the industry is obsessed with numbers and unfortunately one of the measured metrics they look at is “Pre-orders”. They report this number to investors and don’t ya know it… investors like to know how much to anticipate in sales.
It was a cool idea right? EQ Next was teased like that. Then instead of “getting to play EQ Next before the year was over” we got; “You can buy your way into Landmark which isn’t really EQNext and the whole time your waiting for more EQ Next info we are instead just going to keep spamming you with Landmark info”. Yea I’m not bitter about the unveiling of EQ Next still anymore am I? LOL
#BetaIsBeta #EQNL #TESO #Wildstar