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IRL – In Real Life

“IRL – In Real Life” is a short, light-hearted documentary looking at the effects of World of Warcraft addiction, produced as part of a 3rd Year Film Production project at UCA.

After losing six years of his life on World of Warcraft, third year film student Anthony Rosner decided that enough was enough and started living in the real world. His documentary, IRL, takes a look at the effects MMORPGs can have on people and show that there is hope at the end of the tunnel.

Originally posted on GeeksAreSexy.net it’s been on YouTube since January 15th and already received over 100,000 views. The comments below the original Youtube upload also make for some interesting reading.

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.

Categories: MMO Tags: , , , ,

You say Beta I say Beta

Betas for MMORPGS have evolved quite a bit over the last five years or so, and I think different publishers, developers and consumers have varying perceptions of what they are, or what they should be. It used to be true that a beta was a period in which the rough or un-finished product was tested out by users and then improved based on player feedback. That’s not really true anymore, now they are much more of a marketing exercise than they have been in the past. Betas used to be primarily something that’s part of the development process and any marketing gained through it was a happy side effect. Now it’s the other way round and they are primarily a pre-launch marketing tool.

Gamers have become more savvy and demanding; it is no longer acceptable to put a sub-par product out into open beta. They no longer accept crashes or bugs like they used to, in the early days of MMORPGS (Ultima, Everquest) players that were in the betas were the hardcore of the hardcore, they loved the fact that they could contribute to the development process. They understood they were looking at something in an un-finished state and their expectations matched that. They posted detailed bug descriptions on forums and despite the games flaws, became invested in it and therefore supported it through to launch and beyond. Probably through a combination of bragging rights, and joy at being able to contribute so closely with the dev process.

The online gamer in 2011 is a lot less forgiving, if you put into open beta anything other than a ready to launch product you’re seriously risking a failed launch. Gamers expect a polished and bug free experience and no longer have the patience to stick it out, partly because consumer habits have changes and partly because the space has evolved. There are so many other competitive products to choose from. During the open beta of Everquest  there weren’t that many other MMOs a player could migrate to, today it’s a very different landscape.

I remember launching a title in 2007 in which we had 80,000 players signed up to the European beta and about double that between North America and Europe. The game was far from ready, and that’s an understatement.  It wasn’t stable at all and had zero polish. As a publishing group we pretty much begged the developers not to move into a Open Beta Test (OBT). Due to various politics, that I won’t go into here, they had the final call and decided to move ahead let the crowds in. It was a disaster: press slammed the game, the forums lit up with negativity and everyone internally started scrambling in a dance of  ‘i told you so’ and ‘what do we do now’. I won’t bore you with all the issues the product had, the main point is the game wasn’t ready and the product never recovered from that very first critical impression because we blew it with our early adopters, the word of mouth was poor and it was downhill from there. We did manage to get some press back to re-look at it post launch and the game was in better shape at that point but it was too little too late, the numbers dwindled and eventually the game was sunset.

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