When it comes to gaming, there’s a first time for everything. The first time downing a boss you’ve been stratting over for weeks, the first time launching a game and watching the opening cinematic, and the list goes on. But I’m going to be straight with you, the thing I’ve been noticing over the many years, is that the launch day experiences of new titles don’t give me that warm fuzzy amazing feeling I once used to get. Am I just older and more weathered by the post launch failures of games or could it be something else?
Think back to a time when betas and alphas weren’t in our gamer vocabulary. A time when the only way you got to see a game was in your new crisp issue of GamePro, Electronic Gaming Monthly, or Nintendo Power. Any day we went to some retail store to buy us a game we wanted was simply glorious. The excitement of unboxing a cartridge, fresh from dust and cheetos prints, and tossing the game in. No matter if it was a bad game in the end or a truly epic one, we all remember our first times.
Look at us today, we’re involved in betas and even early access alphas and even pay to be a part of them. We spend countless hours playing and progressing in a game where our stats and/or characters simply get reset a few weeks before launch. I can tell you first hand, after playing Reaper of Souls, it has been truly refreshing for me. You see, back when Diablo 3 first announced a beta, I was involved in it. I played ACTI over and over and over again, until I simply was sick of it. After the game launched, I had to play the beta all over again just to get to ACT II! That alone gave me a not so great first time experience of the full game. I just wasn’t excited. Maybe that’s just me, and some people get a thorough enjoyment out of playing alphas and betas religiously. Some people even play betas as they should and report game breaking bugs and problems to devs, as they should, but lets face it; the majority of us play betas to get a sample before the main course. Not only beta and alphas, but with YouTube, watching countless play-throughs, reviews from people that we “trust”, and watching any sort of video in a tiny box almost somewhat predetermines what we think about a new title. Long gone are the days people make judgements for themselves in fear of wasting money on a game. It’s that experience and risk that is lacking nowadays. Some may see that as a good or bad thing.
You can’t fault people from considering betas as demos. Take a look around, when was the last time you told someone Im going to play the demo (of a AAA title) before I buy it. Typically a beta is an over-glorified marketing demo to get you to want to play the game itself on launch. Even betas can’t determine what the final product will end up like, Battlefield 4 being a prime example, plagued with missed launch DLC due to issues in the game. Even if you do think that developers entrust neckbeards and arm-chair reviewers behind their screens as beta testers, the real testers are in QA and are paid employees or groups typically. Whether they do a good job of it or not isnt the point. The point is, a beta rarely should be considered nothing more of a demo.
This brings me to my final point. Should gamers in general stay away from betas and rather wait to experience the full game on launch? To get that, “man this is all going to be new to me”, feeling? Or are we, as gamers, so impatient that we want to scarf down as many samples as we can to the point that we’re full by the time the main course comes around?