The gaming industry, as a whole, has continued to bend, flex, and evolve as new technology has continued to usher in great enhancements for our favorite past time. During the early years, developers would design, engineer, test, and release a game out into the wild, never fully knowing if it reached its true potential. Many times, developers would release what they thought was a groundbreaking title, but would later find players didn’t quite feel the same way. Fortunately, technology has allowed us to bridge the gap between player and creator, even before the product is fully ready for launch. The beta has changed everything, and it’s time we embrace this emerging trend.
The beta launch, which typically sees developers release an unfinished version of their title a few months in advance, has quickly become a popular trend within the gaming industry. It’s almost gotten to the point where it’s taboo if a publisher doesn’t release a beta before its official street date. This concept has received mixed reaction across the board, with both sides either arguing for its disbandment or praising its groundbreaking use of technology. However, in the long run, it’s ultimately good for our industry.
Star Wars Battlefront is the most recent example of taking full advantage of this a beta. The title saw a whopping 9.5 million players engaged during its initial beta release. The byproduct of releasing an early beta was well over 12 million copies sold and several issues ironed out ahead of launch. The weapon attack system was overhauled because of it and directly resulted in a more balanced and engaging multiplayer platform. It felt like a night and day difference. Overwatch is another one. Developers took nearly a decade to construct the title and used the beta to tweak specific platform issues, along with perfectly balancing the game’s characters and abilities. This game have never been good if over 10 million players didn’t engage in the beta.
Not only does a beta allow gamers to take a sneak peak at an upcoming title, but it also gives them to option to either opt out or go all in and purchase upon release. This is a big win for people, as publishers are essentially offering a scaled up version of yesteryear’s demo, but with the ability to make tweaks on the fly as gamers begin to uncover flaws. What a fantastic way to pullback the veil on the development process and let gamers get their hands dirty. Sure, it’s all apart of the marketing campaign process and certainly cuts down the cost of QA techs,but it also gives us gamers the ability to try before we buy. You can’t get much more symbiotic than that.
It’s time we fully embrace this practice and enjoy playing high profile games a few months early, even if they’re not fully complete. There’s a reason the day one patch was created, and it’s not a direct result of lazy development. (Unless of course you’re Activision with Tony Hawk Pro’s Skater 5.) Allowing gamers to dive deeper into the realm of the creation process is a good thing. Allowing developers to capture our in-game motions and use them to better a game’s build is a good thing. Open and closed betas are a good thing. It’s time we stopped fighting the shades of our youth and embrace the somewhat unorthodox practice. In the end, most developers just want to make a good game that resonates with the community. It’s time we meet them halfway.