Star Trek: The Proliferation of Betas


Thanks to the awfully decent fellows at Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I am the proud recipient of a Star Trek Online beta key. What merriment! It is downloading as I type. Assuming there isn’t an NDA (non disclosure agreement, fact fans) I’ll be back next week with my findings, so look forward to that.

All this excitement set me thinking. There has hardly been an MMO in the years since WoW that hasn’t done the massive Open Beta thingy. Cryptic in particular give away beta keys in stunning quantities, handing them out like scary Gypsy women on street corners dishing out flowers. Warhammer Online did something similar, as did Age of Conan. In fact, I can’t think of a high-profile MMO launched over the past four years that I haven’t played at some stage for free.

Does this work in their favour? I can’t really see how it could. Admittedly, plenty of people are exposed to the game who otherwise would probably never give it a go, but the point of these mega-betas is to get people to pick the game up on launch. How many do? I would hazard a guess that most MMOs, your Champions or your Warhammers, never really exceed the player base they get in these huge free tests. Why would they? Unless the game really is exceptional, why would you go back and pay to play a game you’ve already played for a month or so? You’d have to re-do all the boring starting areas for one thing.

I’m sure a fair proportion of people do carry on with the game. Cryptic wouldn’t keep doing it otherwise, right? Still, it would be interesting to see some percentages. Allow me to finish with a prediction (which is also a partial recommendation from an old hand at the beta game) – BioWare will not create a massive scale beta for The Old Republic – it’s just not in their best interest, and they have enough excitement built up to do just fine without one. People will pay to play, and if BioWare deliver they’ll hang around.

Still, here’s hoping Star Trek Online is fun. I’ll report back, EDRites. Keep ’em peeled.

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