There’s a growing trend where MMO developers are finding ways to monetize beta invites and in today’s episode of Chat Bubbles we want to know what you think about it.

This topic came to mind after last weekend’s Neverwinter beta event. The only players that got their hands on Cryptic’s upcoming MMO were members of the press and anyone who has purchased one of the Founder’s Packs. While the Founder’s Packs come with a smattering of in-game goodies, $60 is a bit steep for a game that will be free-to-play (and download) from launch. To be fair, you can sign up for a shot at getting into one of the Neverwinter beta weekends, but the only way to guarantee access is to shell out some cash.

Other games have done this as well, but with different approaches. Blizzard handed out Mists of Pandaria beta invites to anyone who signed up for their annual pass. Guild Wars 2 gave beta access to anyone who pre-purchased the game, but at least you didn’t pay any extra if you knew you wanted the game. The WarZ allowed people into the alpha test for pre-ordering the Pioneer or Legend packs. Troy recently wrote an article about Dirty Bomb which is another game allowing you to buy into the alpha test. So this is definitely a practice that has become the norm and we fully expect this trend to continue.

MMOs are extremely expensive, so is it necessarily bad for companies to try and earn some pre-launch revenue by monetizing the beta invite process? Are there some approaches you think are fine and others that cross the line? Let us know what you think about buying beta access in the comments below!

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  • Kiba

     I don’t find any issue with offering beta access for pre-purchasing a box or getting what is essentially a box or a collectors edition for a F2P game. Either way its a way to benefit those players are planning on playing it anyway, much the same as a pre-order for a standard game, beta should not mean a demo for those who aren’t sure if they will play or not.

    I find that its more of a matter of perception than anything else.

  • Eric

    MMO beta’s seem to serve 2 purposes now, server stress tests and free previews. If someone else wants to pay extra for their preview, let em. To be fair though, they always seem to include beta invites with the purchase of something else, if they start straight up selling beta invites, that might be a different story.

  • Luke Malcolm

    Playing full price for beta access isn’t great, but paying maybe 5 or 10 bucks wouldn’t be terrible I think.

  • Jason Jenkins

    as long as they still give me “a chance” of getting in for free at some point during the beta process I dont really see a problem with allowing people to buy their way in.

  • Anthony Botz

    For F2P games I think this is a fine strategy if it lines up in a way that is fair to the consumer. I didn’t look at Neverwinter, I’m not super excited about it, but Marvel Heroes recently had a founders program go live and it seemed pretty fair until you got the top level. what do I mean by fair? well you are buying sight unseen content for a game that is, in theory, free. They better provide some sort of tangible benifit for that. In my case I purchased a single hero pack for $20. That pack came with a Hero, 2 skins and then $20 in game cash to purchase items from the cash shop when the game goes live. so by giving them the $20 up front I get a few items free. And that’s how it should be. the soul reward should not be Beta Access. Players want beta access to determine if they really want to invest in a game. Investing to learn if you should invest seems like a bad plan to me. I also understand the gamer mentality of wanting to be first, to not be seen as a noob. And it could be fair to say that these companies are exploiting this a bit, but as long as the buy in includes more in game product than you can buy at launch by a fair margin then I have no problem with it.

  • Fredrik Fronken Gardsiö

    There seems to be alot of people who think that being able to play in a beta in their god-given right as a human being, and they are so entitled that they start bashing a company for doing something like gating their beta invites.

    Beta is not something that everyone is entitled to, it’s something that the company offer to you, not something they owe you.

    I had no problem whatsoever with Neverwinter gating their first beta weekend to only founders, as it’s their choice, same as me having a choice whether or not i want to pay for the beta/bonus items, or just wait until launch and play it for free.

  • J

    Well to be honest knowing it will be free to play no box price…i kinda only paid $60 to help fund the game development. The reason I did this is its DND and I like the idea of the FOUNDRY player made content.

    But also

    I watched some people streaming Neverwinter saturday morning..i was on the fence but i was impressed by quite alot about the game…so i said i have paid for worse…why not its DND! So i went ahead and pid $60 and got to play for 2 days beta…had a blast !

    Neverwinter will be a fun game thats a mix of WOW, GW2, Tera, and maybe something else.

    Will it be a WOW killer…no…. will it fill in a gap between current big games YES! and as i said ITS DND!!!!! and a good game so why not?

  • Esteban Fernandez

    Personally, I think its about how we label now. Beta access nowadays is not so much about “beta” but really of giving players a demo, if they called it a demo I would have no problem with it, because to me it would sound like “for $ come check out a demo of our game before it comes out!” instead of “for $ come help us fix our bug filled game before it even comes out!” 

  • Jado Cast

    If it was a true beta, I’d have issue with adding it as an incentive to pay in advance.  But let’s be honest, its really not a beta anymore.  It is a demo with bugs.  Xbox had many games that put demo’s on the market and you had to pay and nobody had an issue with it.  Most games are polished after a real closed beta and its just marketing ploys to hype up the game.  If you want to pay for that like you would headstart, then its fine with me.

  • Chad Cowder

    I am ok with pre-purchase that gives access beta and even annual pass but straight out paying up front seems like can be easy scamming. 

  • Thaguf

    Yeah in this case its ok. BTW I love that white dragon print he has on the wall! Wonder where he got it.

  • Chris Catone

    When given 2 options, it’s almost always the third.  I’m going with neutral…I did the prepurchase on GW2 since it was inevitable that I was going to buy it.  I’m not going to pay anything for NW since I’m not going to pay for it when it’s released so…that.  I guess only when I’m going to pay the money anyway.

  • Hicks64

    Sometimes I paid for Fileplanet to get into betas and a few titles in recent years. I’m fine with it, if consumers wanna pay for beta companies should do it. ‘Merica, capitalism, and all that. :D

    • Richie Procopio

      Wow! I totally forgot about fileplanet. I did that a few times as well. That was really like the first instance of paying for a beta.

  • Steven Diaz

    Beta is for testing, companies seem to have forgotten that.  I feel like allowing beta access to the masses ends up hurting the game more than actually helping.  People will pick it apart to death, knowing full well that it’s a beta and things could change.  It also allows people to experience the game before launch, so at launch they might not be as dedicated, or have lost interest because they had to reroll their characters.  Honestly, I don’t see the point in allowing beta to the masses.  They should have a team of a few hundred or thousand people to test the game then toward release they could perhaps have a beta weekend or two to test servers.  Back in the day, games didn’t have these massive open betas and they launched decently enough and usually with more content than current MMOs.  Just my three cents.

  • Deadalon

    The beta pay system in Neverwinter is a disgrace.  Free to play game where you buy access to beta?  That on its own just proofs to me that the game can never be anything other than moneygrab.

  • nathan law

    i was going to but the never winter beta because i thought it was good value for $19.99 then i realised it was 199.99

  • Phasra

    I personally bought the 200$ FP for several reasons:
    1) I’ve been following the game for a long time and it’s pretty much a dream come true for me – I want the game really bad. So, I want to support it.
    2) I know I’m going to be playing the game, and because it’s a true F2P game – I know I will be buying stuff from the shop. So, getting the 400$+ worth of astral diamonds for 200$ bucks sounds like an awesome deal to me.
    3) I can afford it.
    4) I get to help test things during beta weekends.
    5) I get all sorts of other in-game goodies, that I’ll be able to show off once the game comes out.
    edit: note: my reasons listed in random order, I didn’t really think what is more important to me.

    Now, you mentioned the GW2 preorders in the video. So it was ok to pay for the game upfront and get the beta access as a bonus. But in NW it’s not ok, to pay for the astral diamonds upfront (with a huge discount) and get the beta access as bonus? Somehow, this logic seems flawed to me…

    Essentially what I’m saying is – you should stop thinking of these deals as if they are payments to get into the beta with some additional bonuses thrown in. You should start thinking of them as if they are upfront payments for the in-game goodies you’ll be getting once the game comes out and the beta access is just an additional bonus thrown into the deal.

    NW will only have a few beta weekends (3 were announced, 1 already happened), just like GW2 did. In-game items and currency that you get from those deals – you will get to keep those things on your characters for the entire lifespan of the game. I don’t understand why anyone would consider that the “beta access” is the MAIN THING on they’re paying for.

    By the way, if you really want to talk about the ridiculous things people willingly throw many at – look at kickstarter. How many projects did people back up, when the project was JUST A CONCEPT without anything playable etc? Personally – I think THAT is just stupid. Buying a FP that is already in beta and will be actually coming out in a few months – that doesn’t sound bad to me at all.

    • 7BitBrian

      I cannot agree with this post more. That is all. /Thread

    • Richie Procopio

      Oooh you brought up kickstarter….that can be a whole separate topic!  The main point I was making between GW2 and NW was that to get access to the beta in GW2, I didn’t spend any more money than anyone else. It was more when you purchased it rather than how much did you spend.

      I don’t think the Neverwinter beta plan is a horrible thing, but the price point seems off to me. I’m interested in Neverwinter, but for me personally, it’s not worth $60 or $200 when I can just wait and get the game for free. It just feels that there could be a $10 or $15 tier which grants beta access and perhaps a bag of holding.

      • Phasra

        Well that is exactly my point. For some reason, you forget that “beta access” or “access to the game” is only a minor thing that you get for purchasing the pack. The MAIN THING in that pack, in my opinion is diamonds (cash shop currency), followed by some cool cosmetic stuff (mounts etc) and the least important thing you’re getting is the beta access.

        If the pack was indeed just “beta access” and nothing else – I would 100% agree! $60 for 3 weekends of limited game-play is totally not worth it.

        Finally, I do agree that the “beta access” could have been in the cheapest pack as well. I don’t think they didn’t add it because they’re greedy, though. I think the cheapest pack doesn’t give beta access, because they don’t have they’re server architecture setup yet and they just wanted to limit the amount of people who would be playing on those weekends.

        Most people think, that after the 3 beta weekends, there will also be an “open beta” where most people who want to try the game – will be able to try it. Even if there will be no open beta – the game is F2P. :)

  • robotadventures

    <—firefall.  $100 commander,  but 15 bucks is also possible. i heard you guys talk about firefall,  i signed up for beta, got invited for one weekend.  really liked it and then bought the founders pack.  i think its important to try it out before you buy.  spending money on something you dont know anything about is risky.  we used to do it a lot back in the days before demos,  even then frogger at the arcade didnt equal frogger on the atari. 

  • John Doe

    Good ideea for a company. 
    Moronic ideea to buy a bugged game.

  • Blaze

    that’s why they get so many people complaining that the game is broke when its a beta test..  Half the people are not reporting bugs, or trying to help make it better.. half of them are trying to take advantage of exploits.

  • Mark Bradden

    I looked at guild wars 2 beta – it was fine, the game was good but then I look at it now and it;s so bad. It was over-hyped at the start but even now WoW is still a better game even though it’s 8 years old! 9.6 million people can’t be wrong!

  • Marcel Frohlich

    I was fine with the GW2 model, it made sense and just felt like something nice and extra,

  • HallusH

    it depends on which game is it. which dev offers what etc.
    if you say warz “beta” vs wow beta vs new title.
    you see the 3rd differences which people should know of.
    wow = people played that for years so you know what you;re getting into totally up to you since you know you would get your money worth.
    new title like neverwinter / gw2 = you see some info and you choose if you want it or not.
    something like warz. people shouldn’t support that at all, don’t buy into half assed mods that dont even worth playing even if they were free.

    with that you have kickstarters and buy into alpha / beta on some websites.
    so check out the gameplay. if they have a video of the last playable version of w/e build they have now.
    so incase someone sees only few design drawings and going “oh this gonna be great” if you buy into that. then you’re the only one to blame for putting money down.

  • Daniel Reasor

    I have no problem with having bought access to the GW2 beta, as the developer’s refund policy was sound and fair to me.  It was materially no different from a free trial; I satisfied my curiosity and moved on with no net loss.

  • Sir Jaxxy

     I admit that I am very old school. In fact I remember when I had to fill out an in depth application to apply to beta test and if I was approved I was the on payed. I think what the developers are losing site of is that an Alpha or Beta TEST is just that a Test. This is where we the gamers help the developers improve and polish the game. By charging for beta access you change it from a development test to a early look/sneak preview. You also end up with people who just want to try the game and are not going to be giving feedback or bug reports.

    I think that if the current trend continues we are going to see allot more games launch well before they are ready. The reason being is that they have not had any true testing being done with real feedback and bug reports.

    What I would like to see is that the developers go back to holding real Alpha & Beta Test. Only invite qualified gamers to them. Require feedback surveys be completed to stay qualified for the test. Require bug reports be filed when a player encounters a bug. Then if you need the extra cash for the final push prior to launch, offer Preview Access to the game as part of the founders packs.

    Sir Jaxxy

  • Matthew Cox

    They had the same sort of cash grab when STO was released. You know what happened? Tons of people had the fee refunded or they did a charge back on their credit card. It was amazingly bad press for them.

  • Kingmob23

    If you pay money for a game and they are offering beta access then one should have an automatic invite. I don’t mind that you get beta access as long as there are other ways of getting in.

  • Fluffenstuffen

     Well beta is supposed to be a testing period as far game development goes. I’m fine with GW2’s prepurchase approach because they aren’t actually making any more money off of it in theory and it helps fund the development up until launch. I think $5-$15 isn’t a whole lot to ask for beta access on a F2P game and it also goes back into game development. As far as adding it into a $60 bundle, I don’t particularly understand it because why am I paying that much for a free to play game just so they can have another beta tester. When the game launches and they’re still selling this bundle for the first couple of weeks, how appealing would a beta key be? I’m not particularly interested in Neverwinter so I wouldn’t have gotten it anyways but I don’t like the idea of their approach because it’s just not something I would consider worth putting money into.