Free Trials, Open Betas, Welcome Back Weekends — Do they tempt you?

MMOs are difficult games to pin down; they’re constantly changing and growing, being streamlined, including temporary holiday events, and adding new content and rewards. A game that failed to grab you at launch may be exactly what you are looking for in six months time.

But it is a difficult task to tempt a player back to a game after they have tried and abandoned it once. And just as hard to lure new players into an older game where they may have to level solo with very little guidance, and then find themselves bottom of the pecking order among the established playerbase.

So what can games do to encourage players to take a second (or first) look? We’ve seen increasing numbers of games this year flock to the Welcome Back Weekend banner. LOTRO and Champions Online have held repeated free weeks for ex-customers, and even WoW offered a free week in game recently. It’s a handy way to check the game out, remind yourself about any old characters you left hanging, and see what has changed since you last played. Even to touch base with old friends and guildies who still play.

Free Trials and Open Betas (which pretty much are free trials these days) make it easier for a new player to decide to throw down some cash on a subscription. At least you will know the game runs on your machine, and whether or not you like the feel of it and the community.

I know that having a welcome back week in LOTRO helped me decide to resubscribe. It also helped a lot that Arbitrary was happy to show me around and help me catch up to what I needed to be doing during the free week. I also know that I have never subscribed to an MMO sight-unseen. There has always at least been a free trial or open beta involved.

How about you? Do welcome back weeks tempt you back? Would you buy a game without trying it first? Do you play open betas because it’s the closest you can get to a free trial? And if you do have friends who you know are on a free trial, do you try to sell the game to them or help them out especially?