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Community Forum Spotlight - Do Game Companies Charge for Beta?

Community Manager Laura Genender take a look at an MMORPG.com forum thread that asks the question: "Why do MMO companies think they can charge monthly for a beta game?"

Do Game Companies Charge for Beta?

This week on the forums, user Netzoko posed a question to his fellow MMOers. "Why do MMO companies think they can charge monthly for a beta game?" From Vanguard to Tabula Rasa, users are clamoring for polished, high end game play, well-done tutorials and so much more. The frustration in this thread is nearly palpable.

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"Under no circumstance should a company think they can sell a half-assed product and get paid while they fix it," stated Netzoko. "To be honest, monthly fees are a rip-off anyway. Multiplayer games like GW, Diablo 2, and tons of FPS games profit who provide dedicated servers for FREE. Yet, games like Tabula Rasa charge an initial fee, plus a monthly fee for a game that should still be in alpha? It's an utter insult to all gamers that some people actually pay for this garbage."

First of all, the practical - it's not a insult to anyone, nor is it meant to be; MMOs are a product and for all that we become attached to them, we must remember that they take money to make and they're made to make money. With the large feature sets we demand in today's MMOs - stunning graphics, sandbox world, etc - developers are overshooting their budgets; when a game is out of money, my friends, it has to launch or scrap.

Our industry is very young, and our developers are artists exploring an untested medium. If we ask for innovation, we must expect and allow for some stumbling along the way; with only a decade or so of production under our belts, there's no way of knowing or guessing how long features X, Y, and Z will take to make.

And that's assuming that all fault lies in human error. With modern technology and perhaps with all future technology, "bug-free" is simply unachievable. Even in a completely polished game, we're bound to see exploits, bugs, etc that need fixing. Nearly every game in the history of MMOs has launched with a "dealbreaker". To name just a few examples, who remembers Lineage II's netcongableno? Who sat in queue to get into a World of Warcraft server? Who lagged in Vanguard, or got lost in any number of lacking tutorials?

Don't despair - it's not a lost cause.

To me, the beauty of the MMO world is that it's constantly changing, almost organic. We are being fed new content via patches, updates, and expansions; we get small fixes and additions weekly/monthly, with large content add-ons every 6 to 12 months (on average). A game is never finished; even years after an MMO ships, we are discovering new lands and new races. What other game genre can say that?

Lately I've been playing NCSoft's newly released Tabula Rasa, working on a review and enjoying the game. Without giving too much away, let me say that the game is far from perfect, and I realize it. I've run into my fair share of bugs, from getting stuck in crevices to circle-strafing around mobs with slow turn radiuses. I have my complaints, such as the clunky UI. But overall, I'm enjoying the game immensely.

Games do not have to be perfect to be fun. This is something we all need to learn and accept: don't focus in on little bugs. Look at your entire experience instead; are you enjoying it? Is the gameplay fun? Is your character enjoyable? Is the world immersive? We can strive for perfection, but we should not expect it.

In fact, I'd say that perfection and innovation - the big goals of the MMORPG.com community - are in complete opposition, making perfection our enemy and our holdback. Innovation is not a blind leap across the Grand Canyon, with a perfect landing on the other side; it's trial and error, with some success and some failure.

There are game breaking bugs, and some of them can be as small as unbalanced combat or an instable client. But overall - how many MMOs are really released in an entirely unplayable state?