Game betas just don’t do it for me

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past five or so years, you’ve probably noticed a new trend sweeping through the gaming community: developers and publishers offering access to a game’s beta as a way for fans to try the game out ahead of its release. On the surface, it’s a pretty good strategy since the studios behind the game can use the beta to generate buzz, and if anything goes wrong or if there’s something that players don’t like, they can just chalk it up to the fact that it’s a beta and is technically not reflective of what the final game will look like. Personally, I think there’s more bad about these pre-release betas than good, allow me to explain.

 A Non-Compelling Pre-Order Incentive

I understand that every game has its own group of super-fans who just can’t get enough of it before and after the game launches, but I am certainly that that sort of fan, even for games that I’m really excited about. That’s why whenever a publisher markets getting to participate in a game’s beta as one of the perks of pre-ordering, I just shrug my shoulders. I get that betas help to create buzz, especially for gaming-focused content creators and YouTubers, but for someone like me, betas just don’t hold that much appeal.

If I am already excited about the game, why would I want to play an unfinished version of it and risk either spoiling the excitement of getting to play it for the first time (more on that later) or, worse, having the beta sour my opinions if it performs badly? If, on the other hand, I’m not already interested in the game, getting to play an unfinished version of it early probably isn’t going to suddenly sway my opinion.

Spoiling The Surprise

Let’s assume I am somehow convinced to give a game’s beta a try and I actually end up liking it. I’m still going to be disappointed in the end because of two hard-to-ignore reasons that actually segue into each other: whatever I play through in the beta, I’m just going to have to play through it again in the full game because beta progress is often wiped once the beta concludes.

Sure, some games offer a special little reward (usually a cosmetic item of some sort) for having participated in the beta, but for the most part playing the beta just ends up being a big waste of time and effort (again, at least in my opinion) because you’re just spoiling the thrill of getting to play for the first time by playing through content you will almost certainly have to play through again. That sort of price just isn’t worth paying if my only reward for doing so is a little cosmetic bauble that says “Congrats for playing the beta!” Oh, and speaking of paying a price…

Paying To Playtest

Let’s not kid ourselves here, publishers aren’t letting players participate in game betas out of the goodness of their hearts. They want to use the data they gather during the beta to hopefully make the final product better, though history has proven that developers aren’t always good at taking beta feedback to heart.

Again, this seems like a good thing initially, but it’s actually only a good thing if a player can participate in the beta for free. If beta participation is locked behind a pre-order or a founder’s pack or some other paid avenue, you’re basically paying money so that you can do a job that the developer should be doing itself, i.e. testing its game and making sure it works.

I know it’s a pretty cynical way to look at paid game betas, but you have to admit it is also a somewhat dishonest approach for game developers and/or publishers to take. If I’m laying down money for a pre-order, I’m not really interested in having the ability to help find bugs and make sure the servers are stable as one of my rewards for doing so. There’s nothing inherently wrong with inviting players to help beta test your game, but when you charge them money for the privilege, that’s where you lose my interest for sure.