Introduce a New Phase in the Development Cycle
Zubon over at Kill Ten Rats made a generic post that is an ultimate truth with MMOs. We all accept and are resigned to the fact that when an MMO launches it will be incomplete and buggy, and we will have to fight through the launch of a game with Rose Coloured Glasses until such time those things can be fixed. As evident in the responses to his article we as gamers just know it to be the case. While I agree with Zubon completely what way can we get around it besides outright denying it or plain accepting it? Developers already know their product won’t be up to snuff and often use questionable PR and Marketing techniques to avoid calling a spade a spade. Let’s start calling that spade the “Commercial Beta”.
Many MMO’ers plan on waiting for 6 months after a launch to start playing a game. That is the generic benchmark of how much time it will take a game to plow through launch issues, fix major bugs established at launch, and get a few good patches in to make a game. As gamers we are paying for the final beta stage. Developers should acknowledge that, embrace it, give it a title to meter expectations, and reward players who stick through it. The Commercial Beta phase should incentify early adopters to a game with a lower box cost, and lower monthly subscription fee until such time the game is more complete that it warrants full payment.
This could be a big win/win. Developers win because they can acknowledge their product is still in beta phase (albeit Commercial Beta) and it will give a little more lax room for player expectations as it is properly termed. They also will start getting a revenue stream to continue making changes. Players win because they receive a fairer value for their dollar for buying an incomplete product and pay less while changes are done, and also give a hand in shaping a game (that they obviously like, paying to beta and all) to be better positioned in the market to attract and retain a good player base after official launch. It also benefits the players because developers will have to make noteworthy changes and fixes to keep the player base after they go to “Official Launch”.
Once the game “Officially” Launches, box price goes to normal and so do sub fees. Commercial beta players get the benefit of the cheaper initial box, and in a nice world would keep the lower sub fee as well. People who stuck with it get rewarded, and people who want to try something new will finally know when the product is ready.
Of course we do this already, without the price breaks. Using some fun terminology and stretching out the development cycle with player incentives just seems like a smarter way to do it.