Should subscribers who don’t get access to beta get compensation?

This is an experiment with a bullet point style, I think sometimes the logic speaks for itself.

1. mmo-champion is now estimating that Cataclysm won’t be out before December (at the earliest).

2. Lots of players are bored, it has been a long time since the last new content patch (aside from short pre-Cataclysm events)

3. Players who are in the beta test have plenty of new content to explore, even if their main goal is supposed  to be ironing out bugs. Not only that but they will get a significant in-game advantage when the expansion goes live from being familiar with the new zones and content. Many players enjoy seeing content before it has been finalised and extended writeups and guides spread all over the net.

4. Beta players pay the same subscription as everyone else, but get access to the beta as an added bonus, possibly for months.

5. Should there be some kind of compensation for non-beta players, who still pay the same monthly fee but don’t get the same advantages?

The flip side of this argument is whether it would be appropriate to charge for beta access. A lot of players would happily pay (particularly for a Blizzard style beta that goes on for several months) and many of these might be the hardcore players whose feedback is already known to be valuable.

What do you think? Is the lottery system better? How about if the beta testers got shuffled every couple of months?

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38 thoughts on “Should subscribers who don’t get access to beta get compensation?

  1. No. They just want to play, testing is perhaps 1% of their sneak peak into the upcoming content.

    The lottery system is probably in place so that not everyone is already bored when Cataclysm releases because they already played it.

  2. My 1st thought upon reading the question was a combination of “hell no!” and “lolwut?” But I was thinking of pre-release betas, not pre-expansion betas.

    On the one hand, I can see your point about the people “getting a head start” so far as knowing how the new zones work, where the quest hubs are, etc. But conversely, it’s just a game with no real-world reward (other than personal satisfaction) for leveling quickly or gearing up your toons faster or whatever, so this “head start” really doesn’t have any value, so what is there to compensate for?

    There’s also the sticky wicket that if Blizzard (or any MMO company) started saying that there WAS real value to someone being in the beta, then it would be impossible to NOT compensate people who weren’t let in…. or to alleviate that simply have only open betas for anyone and everyone, except then how do you change things that aren’t working right without the whole community getting up in arms?

    Catch-22 right down the line there. I think they’ll have to stick to the “there’s no value to the player for them being in the beta” line and keep it as it is currently set up.

    • There is a small group of people to whom being in beta has a real monetary value, and those are anyone who is planning to write an unofficial cataclysm levelling/ instancing/ raiding guide or blog posts and who has a way to monetise it (either via adds for pageviews or whatever).

      Those will be a very small minority, but they’ll be quite influential because those will be the popular guides.

      Note: This doesn’t include me btw.

  3. I think the best answer is that beta testers should be selected on merit.

    In the good old days of beta testing video games you had to actually submit answers to questions and essentially apply to get into a beta in order to prove that you would be a good beta tester and not end up wasting the developers time.

    Sadly, MMO beta invites in recent years have been twisted and perverted into nothing more than free previews for a select few subscribers and of course the pro-Blizzard gaming media. And let’s not forget they are also used as promotional incentives with the various contests run by their henchmen in the gaming media that offer “free” beta slots.

    Blizzard doesn’t really care about what the masses actually think. Success breeds arrogance. If they truly did care then they’d actually have more surveys and polls on their official forums where they actually seek subscriber input. So it’s no wonder that not many people are currently in the beta.

    Also, Blizzard already has their “Friends & Family” members who they can trust to give them feedback as well as hand picked guilds that essentially do free testing for them.

    The bottom line is that the current Cataclysm beta selection process is deeply flawed, rife with favoritism and is largely inexplicable to any reasonable person interesting in actually being a good beta tester.

      • First off, I’ve argued in the past that loyalty is probably a better criteria than what they currently use which is no real criteria at all.

        I’m not going to fall into the trap of trying to explain why I would be a good choice to get in the beta because of my own personal merit. Nice try though :)

        But, if it was truly based on merit and I didn’t get in then I’d be fine with that. At least if a system was based on merit it would be far preferable to the lottery system that is being utilized now.

        Since I don’t play WoW 30+ hours a week and am not a raider I probably would be lacking in many areas with regard to being a suitable beta tester.

    • Why should they care what the subscribers think? By your own admission, the WoW community is so fractured and idiotic that anything said there isn’t worth taking into account.

      And hey, if we’re going to start bashing gaming media there’s far worse than being pro-Blizzard. The far worse accusation is that they do fuck all in the way of community support (especially if it doesn’t concern the extremely American-centric “gaming journalists.”)

      Besides that, you said they do pick on merit in your own comment: “hand picked guilds,” most of whom are hardcore raiders.

      What else do you want them to pick on from merit? Subscription time? That’s not a merit, that’s a veteran reward. And I’ll be damned if my veteran reward is something as shitty as giving them free testing.

      • The Blizzard devs often refer to feedback from the players and the community as evidence for many of their decisions. This is a common tactic to use public opinion to justify a decision that you agree with. But on the other hand Blizzard often make decisions that are contrary to the opinions of the subscribers — they don’t mention that lack of public that when they justify those particular decisions.

        Well they do hand pick guilds to do their testing for them. Those guilds are obviously qualified to be beta testers but what about players in other guilds that are just as qualified? Is that fair that they are excluded? Of course not. At least if they had a application system then everyone who could demonstrate sufficient merit would have a chance at getting into the beta.

        I do think loyalty — which I’ve argued on 2 blog posts — is a more valid criteria than a random lottery system which they are using right now. I think there’s a good case to be made that a subscriber who has shown loyalty would be a better beta tester than someone who just started playing WoW a few weeks ago.

  4. I just don’t see being in the beta as an advantage to begin with. Yes, beta testers get to see new content now when others don’t, but conversely there’ll be nothing new for them to discover when everyone else gets to be all excited about the changes, so things even out, don’t they? It’s not as if the beta people can carry anything over into the live game other than a feeling of having been there and done that.

  5. I don’t think players deserve compensation per se as some people (like myself) don’t actually want to take part in a beta and would rather wait. However, I think there is a good argument for making sure that all players who want to try it are actually able to to, especially considering the whole beta thing is now going on for 6 months.

    • I think that argument may lead to charging for beta access on the grounds that people to whom being in beta has worth will be willing to pay for the privilege.

      • I wonder.

        We’re increasingly seeing a pattern of additional charges. For many players there will be a straw to break the camel’s back. Will people who swallowed the collectors edition, the ccg loot cards, the star pony, the monthly sub prove to have a breaking point?

        In the short term probably not.

        In the longer term all these trends are moving Blizzard away from being the cool company that cares about games to the monolith that everyone will abandon when they discover a new cool company that really cares about games.

        WoW has, I think, proved that long term profits are the best profits. WoW is a cash cow because in the early 90s Blizzard gained a certain reputation. Such shifts in perception happen at a glacial pace.

      • Stabs – Will people really move away from Blizzard because a cooler company comes along? I doubt it. Maybe if a better *game* comes along.

        I personally would have no problem with Blizzard charging for Beta access. on a personal level it would actually improve my gaming experience as I’ve no interest in playing the Beta and some of the people who’ve buggered off to the Beta servers would be around on Live instead.

  6. I am worried about the familiarity of so many players before I even start Cataclysm. It’s a heck of a lot easier to run an instance if you’ve been there before. In a sense, many will be running with “alts” (even if those alts are the same players they used in the beta) when the content is officially released.

    Is there anything off-limits in the beta? I can understand letting out the single player content — quests and rep grinds — but the instances should, imo, be kept under pretty clear, NDA, very selective tester wraps.

    • The trouble is that if you keep the instances under wraps, it limits how much testing people can do. And especially if they want to test for balance and get a large number of people of varying skill in to help test, limiting to a small number of experienced testers might hamper that.

      • Then test while everyone else is experiencing single-player content.

        But also note that they were tweaking end game quite a while into its live release with Wrath. There is no perfect testing. The response to your post shows that the current system is broken.

        I’m all for a few hardcore guilds, guilds I’d never be raiding with, testing the crud out of instances. But the test is so large…

        Compare the number of people beta testing WoW vs. GTA4. And how many people do you need to tell you the worgan mount form is a placeholder?

        It’s obvious Blizzard is using the beta test to keep people interested and paying cash. Then call it normal content. Release. Do tiered testing that’s truly under wraps and doesn’t break game balance.

  7. I’d just say that…

    2. Players who are in the beta, exploring all the new content, will become bored with the release version all the sooner. I’m actually a little concerned about this, given minmax, optimal strategy inclination of serious wow-players. I’ve no wish to zone into a 5man for the first time to have some random dude who’s already run the dungeon 12 times on the beta skipping bosses, taking shortcuts and telling me what’s going to happen in every encounter. For that reason, I’ll be running all of the new instance content at least once with guildies before I touch the dungeon finder.

    (aside: we’ve not actually downed Halion yet, but one of the most fun things about Ruby Sanctum was our guild-wide decision to actively avoid any strategy guides and just run through blind on our first run. We wiped a fair bit, but it was brilliant. “Ok, dragon trash. Should be fine WHOA, KNOCKBACK!”.)

    5. No, absolutely not. However much they might enjoy it, people in the beta are unpaid testers. BLIZZARD are the people benefiting here — even the people who don’t file bug reports will be constantly submitting playdata via the client and providing typical-player traces on the servers.

    I’m not sure that Blizzard could charge for beta access, even if they wanted to. Certainly in Europe, where consumer protection laws are perhaps a little stronger than the US, paying for access would (I think) automatically activate some of the regulations about merchantability etc. which would leave them rather exposed if there were any significant problems.

    • “I’ve no wish to zone into a 5man for the first time to have some random dude who’s already run the dungeon 12 times on the beta skipping bosses, taking shortcuts and telling me what’s going to happen in every encounter.”

      This is one of my concerns too. I know that after a week or so it evens out but I want some space to learn the encounters for the first time with other people who don’t know them either.

      I could just run with guildies (and probably will) but … some of my guildies are in the beta and are keen to give pointers/ advice to everyone else too.

      • Having seen a couple of Totalbiscuit’s heroic previews, some of the features of new instances are back to TBC difficulty (anyone remember 8 hour shadow lab heroic runs?).

        An example from Stonecore Heroic would be the requirement to jump at the right time to avoid a trash AoE that will pretty much one-shot you. Unless this stuff gets nerfed hard before release, then going in blind might be fun, but might mean you simply can’t beat the dungeon.

  8. Absolutely 100% not. I’m not going to waffle on this with one hands or the other, but the mere idea of this is wrong to me on so many levels.

    1. There’s way too much “entitlement” going around as it is.
    2. I still adhere to the “beta is for testing” not for pre-release play, whether it’s a full game or expansion.
    3. Compensating existing subscribers would be two faced: those who get access are chosen based on SOME criteria, but if compensation is given, it’s like the company admits that they purposefully OMITTED willing participants rather then worked through a system of inclusion. See point 1
    4. The whole argument of “getting a head start” impiles that some group will have some kind of advantage over the other by having played it already. If people are bored with the live game now, how bored will beta testers be released when the expansion is released…with all the content they’ve already done probably multiple times already?

    • 4 is where I stand. I’m glad that cataclysm isn’t being spoiled for me. I’d rather have a lull when I could potentially unsubscribe with no loss than get bored shortly into cataclysm when content is still relevant, then want to quit, but want to come back when they add another major patch.

  9. “2. Lots of players are bored”

    Hah, ain’t that the truth. Gangs of them are causing trouble in other games (LOTRO f’rinstance), sort of like football fans pining for their next big match.

    I’d say soccer but I won’t. There’s football, and there’s *American* football. :P

    • Well if you want to get really sticky about it, there’s “associated football” (see that “soc” in there? — yup, that’s where “soccer” as a word comes from. Yes, I’m an etymology geek. Deal with it!) and “American football” and “Australian-rules football” and “rugby” to boot.

      • The best part of Aussie rules football is the commentating. Someone will punch an opponent in the throat and the commentators will speculate irritably about why he needs to lie on the ground after just a little tap and reminisce about the good old days when the players were all real men.

      • After the way that Australian Rules handled the situation of a drawn Grand Final, I’ll never pay attention to it again.

        Instead of just having overtime, which is good enough for every other spot, the greedy fucks running the show decide to hold a rematch, make everyone pay for new tickets, and all of you fans just lie down and accept it.

        Pathetic.

      • Chris is right though, that’s not how they handle drawn games in normal football. And if I had paid for a ticket to see the match, I’d be pretty pissed off to not be offered a free ticket to the replay.

  10. I see myself as having one big advantage ove beta testers. That is, Cataclysm will not be anti-climatic for me when it’s released. All the content will be fresh and new. Whilst beta tester, the expansion will likely have gone a bit stale…since they’ve seen it all already. Some for 6 months as Gord pointed out from above. So in the end, perhaps that’s our compensation.

  11. I never even tried for Beta as I wanted the content to actualy be new and fresh when it hits, as many others have already said.

    I think the point that a fairly large pool of people will already know most of it backwards and forwards and that strat guides will already be out there is a major one.

    Not to keen on that tbh. I like working out tactics. Some of the methods I’ve used on Boss fights are NOT the recomended ones on most guides…and you know on occasion I think ours work better. That makes me happy.

    I know there needs to be good Testing and Q&A work done as day #1 bugs are a huge let down but the balance seems off right now…I like exploring and trying new stuff out to see if it works and frequently getting burned when it doesnt…but joy when it works!!!!

    Well off to Minecraft Alpha I go, Minecraft wiki akimbo to make a liar of me…

  12. To answer your topic question Spinks, no, I don’t think so.

    Why should they (we I might say, I dont have beta either)?

    I just don’t get you people who complaining about not getting into beta to see new stuff. If its that bad, why don’t you just take a break and resub when the expansion is out ?

    Why spoil the majority of the expansion for you ahead of time and get burned out on it even quicker? Take a break, do something else until its out.

    Seriously, you’re listing knowing the expansion beforehand as an advantage in your post, and sure they will most assuredly know a lot of the stuff coming in Cataclysm a lot better then the rest when it goes live, but they will also most assuredly get bored almost instantly.

    You bring it up as a negative point that subscibers with beta access have the aforementioned advantage. How else would you suggest doing it ? Do you think Blizzard Entertainment would have any interest in handing out Beta keys to grannies at Wal-Mart instead ?

    Look, Spinks, I really do understand if you’re bored with the state of WoW right now and the expansion not that far away, I really do. Yes, it’s kinda boring if you are already a Kingslayer. If not, why are you worrying unless you are said kingslayer or you have all the achievements you could possibly care for ?

    • Did you see my last comment on those? Cos if it’s the previews you can turn them off. I’m just asking because I want to check it isn’t anything else. There are no adverts here of which I’m aware.

      And really this isn’t just about me being bored. I can find other things to do. It’s a more fundamental question about the way expansions are released, the advantages of being able to preview content, how betas are used as marketing tools (for example, in other games it’s become common to give beta access as a perk for pre-ordering), and what you should get for your subscription.

      If you don’t want to play beta and get spoiled, you’d never need to do it.

  13. I think all they need to do is go through the beta roster every week, remove access from those who aren’t using it and re-send out new keys.

    During the Starcraft 2 beta, despite the number of keys continually increasing, the number of concurrent people online never really increased all that much beyond the initial 20,000 or so in the first couple weeks.

    This says to me that a LARGE number of people were getting beta access, finding the game wasn’t for them, or preferring to wait until it came out, and not using the key. Thats an empty testing slot, and really what needs to be done is for those unused keys to be reassigned in the hopes of getting someone who will use them.

  14. Should people who don’t get the refer-a-friend bonus XP be compensated? We’re both paying the same subscription fee but they make faster progress.

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