We’ve reached a point where AAA games with online multiplayer elements can’t just be shipped out. Servers and code need to be tested. Modes need to be balanced. Developers and publishers need the kind of feedback that can only come from wide-scale tests. They depend on alphas and betas to make sure everything works. Yet, this is also a console generation where people with PlayStation 4s and Xbox Ones can’t just hop online and immediately help out. The very nature of these multiplayer experiences require interactions that can usually only come from subscribing to the PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold services.
But should these requirements be in place for betas? These aren’t full game experiences. They’re a means of testing and preparing for them. The events help creators prepare their products. They give us a glimpse at something we might want. They could even encourage us to subscribe. Exempting betas from subscriptions should be the norm, not some exception.
Multiple PlayStation 4 betas haven’t required a PlayStation Plus subscription this year. The Uncharted 4 multiplayer open weekend didn’t force us to subscribe to play, and that was a first party game. The stress test was open to anyone willing to download and try it out that weekend. Battleborn’s open beta, back in April, didn’t either. This weekend, there’s a huge Battlefield 1 beta that will let anyone participate in the up to 64-player battles, all without playing that extra fee for the honor.
Unfortunately, Xbox One owners aren’t so lucky. Battleborn and Battlefield 1 both required Xbox Live Gold to take part in the online betas. You needed to pay a fee to be a guinea pig for someone else’s game, something that might not even work properly. The same happened for many other betas this year, like the Gears of War 4, Titanfall 2, and Overwatch betas. Every time, you had to make that extra commitment.
Which really doesn’t feel right. You’re doing these companies a service by helping them test out their games. Your assistance is ensuring a better final product. Without you, there could be issues that would have otherwise been unresolved. But instead of showing their appreciation by somehow working with Microsoft and Sony to make them free, you’re being forced to pay. And, instead of Microsoft and Sony realizing that you’re giving up free time in an act that can be considered generous and maybe seeing something worth paying for, they’re keeping things locked away.
Betas shouldn’t require the likes of PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold to play. Companies should follow the examples set this year by betas for games like Battleborn, Battlefield 1, and Uncharted 4. Betas should be exempt from subscription services as a show of goodwill and appreciation for our participation in something that could make a game better.