Is it fair to label a game 2 weeks from release as a beta? Ubisoft certainly thinks so with For Honour and Ghost Recon: Wildlands receiving open ‘betas’ just days before their release. Are these really betas or simply demos and why might a publisher prefer the term beta?
Long before we had the Xbox One and PS4 games would receive demos before their release however, over the years, developers have been moving away from this practise. That was what I thought at least however, recently, demos seem to have been making a return albeit with a name change. Tom Clancy’s: The Division, For Honor, Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Mirrors Edge: Catalyst all received ‘betas’ a few weeks before their release. The shift towards betas from demos appears to be well underway and the real question is why?
That question is easily answered when you think about what a beta means. When you’re playing a beta you expect bugs and subconsciously you are less harsh in your opinion of a game because “it’s only a beta”. However, when you’re playing a demo you expect a complete bug free slice of the game and you judge it as such. This doesn’t become an issue to the consumer until you have a beta mere days before release meaning there is no possible way you could fix any of the minor bugs encountered let alone adjust for any larger feedback from the community.
This became abundantly clear when I went from playing the For Honor closed beta (2 weeks prior to release) to the For Honor open beta (less than a week prior to release) to playing the full game and noticed no differences. I encountered bugs and issues from the closed beta when I was playing the main game which completely defeats the point of hosting a beta in the first place. If you aren’t going to fix the issues then why have a beta? It’s simple, to sell the game. It’s much easier to sell a game based on a flawed beta than it is based on a flawed demo. Could these betas just be a misleading sales pitch?
In the end its up to you to see past this potential attempt at misleading you. You should always keep in mind the fact that a beta isn’t always all that different from the full release and, whether publishers are trying to manipulate us with betas or not its always better to be cautious.