Ever since people started being able to access the internet in a stable method on consoles, we’ve begun to see something happen. Betas have grown in popularity. At first, they were a rare and infrequent occurrence; these were something reserved for PCs. But as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One grew in popularity, so too did the use of various betas. Now, in 2018, it feels like we could be on the cusp of a major transition.
2017 was a year filled with betas, sure. People were able to participate in tests for games like Call of Duty: WWII, Destiny 2, Gwent, and Monster Hunter: World. But now that 2018 has arrived, everything has been stepped up. In January alone, we have been flooded with betas. It is happening in such a way that it almost seems like companies could really be on the track to replace demos with betas. After all, betas help them determine if a game is working right, give people a chance to try the game ahead of launch and helps build hype if the product is good enough.
What makes it seem like this could be the case? Well, let’s start with Monster Hunter: World. The game has received three beta tests ahead of launch on the PlayStation 4. Three! The last one was an open beta held January 19-22, 2018. Considering the game itself launched on January 26, 2018 on consoles, it is not like this last beta was necessary for fine tuning. Especially since it added a Nergigante fight and is open to all. No, this felt more like a hype-building move. It’s a way for people to try the game, just as they would with a demo, and get hooked.
But it isn’t just Monster Hunter: World. Dragon Ball FighterZ’s open beta is another way to pull people in. Sure, Bandai Namco may have wanted to make sure the online matchmaking and such is all set for the game’s January 26, 2018 launch. But, again, this is not the first beta for the game. A closed beta was held back in September 2017. Anything that happened during the January 14-16, 2018 open beta would result in relatively minor changes. Rather, it seems like another example of a chance to pull people into a game they may already be excited about playing.
Of course, not all of the massive number of January 2018 demos have been about giving people a last minute chance to play a game about to launch. Two seemed designed to actually provide feedback about titles that could lead to substantial changes that alter or fix the game. Like the Metal Gear: Survive beta. This open beta was set for January 18-21, 2018 and really provided the first look ever at this admittedly mysterious spin-off. After all, a multiplayer, survival-based Metal Gear game with zombies is certainly a wildcard. The beta is a way for Konami to test things out and show people what’s going on, rather than hoping marketing will convince them.
And we can’t forget about Sea of Thieves, a game setting sail on March 20, 2018. Its closed beta was set for January 24-29, 2018. Considering no NDA was in place and Rare actually told people to go ahead and stream, capture video, and take screenshots, it seems like another situation where this is not just about business. It is about the pleasure of enjoying a game before launch. You know, like you would have with a demo back in the good old days.
If January 2018 is any indication, companies are absolutely moving toward relying on betas instead of demos. I mean, four major betas in a single month is absolutely insane. But, it makes sense. The company gets feedback and a way to test a product. It gets a game’s name out there. And people get an opportunity to not only try something before they buy it, but play it before anyone else.