When I wrote yesterday’s article, “Product Director Speaks on Fileplanet Open Beta”, I had no idea that it would prove to be so volatile, prompting 120 replies overnight. I, being the madman that I am, have waded through the entirety of it and I have found that people are still proposing alternate theories on why exactly Funcom chose to go with a Fileplanet download.
I’m not one of those people. I may be in the minority, but I just wasn’t surprised by the initial decision from the company to go through Fileplanet for a beta. It’s not the first time a company has chosen this route for open beta distribution. Heck, I remember back when I was working on Wish, we distributed our client through good ‘ol FP and that was back in 2005. I remember someone telling me back then that this would become the standard for MMO beta distribution and I still can‘t disagree.
I know that people are running up one side of Jorgen’s answers (from the article) and down the other, but I think that there are some people who are misinterpreting some of what has been said, and I wanted to offer my two cents. I should premise this by saying that while I will admit that Age of Conan is one of the games that I am looking forward to, I’m not personally invested enough to make up stories on their behalf (as I will inevitably be accused of doing).
The first thing that I have noticed is that near the end of the 120 replies (and throughout), people are still talking about Funcom making a profit from the beta. People feel that it was a decision made in ordre to “grab a quick buck” before launch.
Ok, here’s my theory on this… I don’t think that Funcom is getting any money from the FP beta. The cost involved is Fileplanet’s subscription fee. I’m pretty sure that Fileplanet is keeping that money themselves as it’s their business model. Sure, the AoC beta was a nice get for them, it will probably bring in some new blood and it gets their name out there, but I don’t think that the people at FP are saying, ‘ok, let’s give the money in secret back to Funcom. Shhhh”. It just doesn’t make any business sense on their end.
In the end, Fileplanet is a for-profit website that is meant to make IGN money. I’m not knocking that. Most high end video game websites are for-profit. I’m just saying that we don’t usually give companies their money back.
Also, what would Funcom really have to gain by doing this? Let’s say for a moment that there is some kind of kick back. Let’s assume that, for the sake of argument, that it’s half of the subscription cost. There are 50,000 keys. Let’s say again for the sake of argument that the Age of Conan beta draws in twice that number of new subscribers to FP (I suspect that number is inflated). That’s 100,000 sign-ups. If Funcom were getting $2.50 for each one, that’s $250,000. While that sounds like a lot of money to someone like me, it really isn’t much in the scope of a multi-million dollar game. Take into account that the average game developer is (according to a recent survey) paid $73,316. That works out to about 3.4 employees worth on money. Not insignificant, but certainly not worth destroying Funcom customer relations over. Remember, Funcom is a business and AoC, while it holds a lot of weight, isn’t the be all and end all of the company.
Now, I know that this is very basic math, but to me, it just makes sense.
Do I think that Funcom isn’t getting anything out of the deal? Of course not. Fileplanet is a high-profile site. The Funcom beta being there brings attention to the game. Drumming up interest and raising the profile of your game right before launch is a valuable thing. It just isn’t monetary kickback.
People are still seeing a conspiracy (or at least rip-off) over the level 13 cap on the Fileplanet beta.
While I totally agree with people who say that the level 13 cap should probably have been mentioned somewhere in the promotions for the beta, I think that Jorgen’s answer about the choice makes sense. In the end, their game is story-driven. They want to save the discovery of the story until the game has launched.
The thing is that there were a couple of lingual missteps here. While Jorgen addressed one of them, in saying that they probably should have called it the Fileplanet beta rather than an open beta, I would go one step further and say that it probably should have been called the “Fileplanet beta preview”. In the end, that’s what it is. It’s a preview. The AoC General Beta is still alive and kicking and is separate from the FP “Open Beta”. I honestly think that Funcom heard their audience calling for some kind of an open beta preview (when people complain that there won’t be an OB, I would suggest that it’s because they want to test the game before buying). And rather than not providing players any chance to try the game pre-launch, I think that the AoC folks probably set up this deal with Fileplanet in an attempt to give players a bit of a preview.
If indeed this was intended as a preview rather than a beta, then the lvl 13 cap makes sense. Think of it like a pre-release demo. Those are always very limited in terms of how much of the game you can experience.
It would have been easy to just distribute a torrent.
I want to preface this bit by saying that I’m not a network expert, and I don’t really know a whole lot about Torrents and how they work. I’ve used them before, but don’t know a lot beyond that. I’m just going to say a few things that seem like common sense to me.
First, wouldn’t releasing through a torrent still require a massive amount of organization on Funcom’s part? I don’t know about the technical stuff, but even the distribution of keys seems like it would be a chore that it might be best to farm out.
Second, wouldn’t distributing via torrent be less secure? I don’t know for sure, but it seems like it would be.
Third, wouldn’t distributing via torrent be less professional? I can’t remember the last time that a professional company asked me to download a torrent. Also, to lay people like me, the word torrent pushes the brain to thoughts of illegal downloading. I’m not saying that’s all they’re used for. It’s not, but there is a very powerful perception in the realm of people who don’t really use torrents (there are more out there than you may think).
I honestly don’t know about this one, but I suspect that even if it could have been done, it just wasn’t worth the headache.
Ok, this is getting long in the tooth for a blog entry, so I am going to cut it short.
My intention here is not to try to convince people to play Age of Conan. In the end, everyone’s MMO tastes are a little bit different. I suspect that AoC will make some people very happy, while for others, it won’t be their cup of tea. The reason I wrote this blog entry is to try to just propose some non-conspiratorial answers to the legitimate questions that have been raised about these issues. Do I claim to be right? No, I don’t. I do not know with 100% certainty that anything I said above is the case. But I wonder if these explanations are any less plausible than a lot of what I read in response to yesterday’s article.