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5 Steps to Consider for a Successful Open Beta

Following on from the previous post here are 5 things to consider when planning for an open beta as part of a product launch campaign:

1) Limit the number of keys: The basics of supply and demand do apply in this case, and the velvet rope effect really does work. Especially with a well-hyped product. Don’t flood the channel with 300,000 keys, getting critical mass for a beta does not equal good marketing. Getting a smaller number of keys to the right people is way more effective. Work closely with your community teams to distribute them to well established guilds and opinion informers. Deal with websites that will support you and your product. Build long term relationships as opposed to giving keys away indiscriminately.

2) Treat your loyal consumers right: If you have a retail product and you”re doing pre-order and collectors editions: reward those that show the most dedicated interest. So CE and pre-order customers should get priority in betas. You don’t want to annoy the people that are putting money down by giving priority to folks that got a key for free. Also give preference to users of existing products or subscribers of your newsletters.

3) Show off your best side: Only show specific areas of the game, don’t allow un-limited access to everything at once. Ensure your dev team is confident in what your showing and that those parts are polished and of launch ready quality. This has several benefits; it ensures the areas that you’re showing are populated and feel like a living world, and it keeps the players wanting and guessing for more. It also allows you to prepare press assets and marketing materials around each specific area you are showing.

4) Timing is everything: Do not leave your beta open for a 3 or 4 week window, and  certainly never longer than that. Again this is something that is was common back in the day but is no longer advisable. Players may see enough to decide not to buy the product, or others will simply glean as much free game time as possible and move on. Instead, bearing in mind point 3 above pick specific areas of the game you want to highlight and then set 2 or 3 day windows in which you reveal this content. This allows players to set time aside to focus on checking out your product, but it is also an excellent way to show the games best side. You can show high level content by letting everyone play characters from a higher level as a starting point. Even though overall you’re giving less playtime than a old school 4 week beta might have given players, you’re actually able to show way more content.

5) Do listen: A lot of rules in how to run a OBT have changed but one that hasn’t is that the betas are still great opportunities to listen to player feedback. Admittedly it may be a little close to launch to make any major development changes but players might discover something you’ve missed or give you a great idea for a marketing angle. Listen to your community teams and set process and time aside for reviewing player feedback.

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