Well, as the title suggest I have begun to wonder is open beta is more of a marketing thing than an actual test. 90% of the open beta users are there to play the game for free or to get a head start on learning the game. Some even just so they can brag they helped "beta" the game.
The recent marketing of open beta by Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning for Collectors edition purchasers created a mass run on online and brick and mortar shops to get the CE and a place in the open beta. Now was this a play to get fans to rush out and buy the CE they normally wouldn't have bothered with? Or was it a reward to those fans who wanted to spend the extra cash for a CE?
Now I am a fan of the games and played them when I was younger. (feeling old now that I can actually use that term.) So I was excited about the CE, it has some great value with nice books and content to me that was worth the extra cash. I typically buy CE's for games I am excited about. Heck i even admit to owning a Tabula Rasa CE. (great packaging by the way.) So the open beta was kind of like a thank you for me. But as I saw the increasing number of braggarts and haters. I wondered is the practice of baiting fans into spending money becoming too commonplace.
Take for instance the Halo 3 beta, if you bought another title for the 360, you also got a code to participate in the open beta for Halo 3. Suddenly everyone was running out to buy Crackdown. (a good title by the way.) And media suddenly shined a light on Microsoft saying it was a baiting program to sell more games using Halo's brand name. Yet practices like this have existed for a long time in the MMO beta world. Buy a subscription to this web site and get access to open beta, or even sometimes a closed beta. We are suddenly a source of revenue to the game companies just for testing the game. As it becomes more common place and the numbers prove out the practice. (money talks as they say.) More and more gaming titles will follow suit. They will get more revenue putting out an open beta where you have to buy something or pay for a service to get access.
Now I am not knocking the service I mean I am sure the game companies are constantly buried under the pile of please let me beta e-mails, forum posts and the like. And I don't fault them for making money off us gamers. heck that's why they do this anyways. To make a living doing what they love. (unless your EA... jab jab... duck for cover.) But is doing this lowering the quality of testing they would otherwise be able to do just for the sake of the mighty $? This is my main question. I beta test and have for a long time. I get into beta's because of my past experience and recognition. I keep my mouth shut on what I am testing and how. and I keep my head down and test for the love of the games and to help improve the experience for others who come after.
The sense of joy you get when you find a bug and see it in the patch notes is wonderful. Being the first to discover a hack and then getting a thank you PM from the dev team. And ultimately the joy of seeing the boxed game on the shelf and knowing you had a part in it all. A real part in it... and it is kind of sad to see it twisted into a marketing ploy to make some extra money and then see the beta board littered with "this game sucks." or "this game is totally broken I wont play it when it releases." For me getting into any beta is an honor. It's like we are contract employees almost. So to see this kind of stuff is sickening. I expect that stuff on release day. But not during open beta, and even some of the closed beta's now days.
So what do you all think, my fellow MMO lovers. Will this ultimately become a fixture in gaming or will it fall away as the community of quality testers are put off by it?