To whom it may concern.
Dear MMO-designers, companies, economists, marketers, PR-agents and all you others involved in the development and launching of a new MMO.
We love you, we really do. Many of us jump between many different games, read up on news and theories and all MMO-related things that we can get our hands on. Hey, some of us even blog about you or go chasing you down with a camera man in tow whenever we get a chance. For some of us, the thought of not having an active MMO sub at any given time feels odd. We’ve seen countless games go into beta, many more launch and even some crash and burn.
But there are a couple of things that you never seem to learn, one lesson that you really need to finally wrap your head around. While not everyone will stick around and play your game for very long, while a lot of people will return to World of Warcraft or Everquest 2 or wherever they originally came from after a while, there seem to be a huge hunger for new games in the genre. Some games develop a huge following long before launch, fansites start to pop up in a matter of days after a simple announcement. And every time the word “beta” is mentioned, a lot of people will jump.
You guys need to be better to anticipate the amount of people that will come storming your servers by the time you go into open beta. You need to be prepared, you need gauge your own hype. Take a look at your balance sheet, see that terribly big number next to “launch day expenses”? Copy it and put it next to “open beta launch” too. If you don’t do that, how about just skipping open beta in the first place? You got your closed beta feedback, use that instead. Use other ways to stress test your servers before launch, if that’s what you want the beta for. If you’re a small company with limited funds, that might be the best way to do it. If you’re a large corporation, the first option is probably the better.
Also, and this has been said so many times now, at some point “open beta” became synonymous with “free trial” for many. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but it happened. I’m not sure who to blame, the companies or the players. It doesn’t really matter, it’s the way it is. Unless your beta product is very, very polished your game will probably suffer because of it. People decide if they are going to pick up your game on launch day or not from the quality of your open beta. There are different ways to handle this, and placing your open beta really close to launch is a gamble – it gives you more time to prepare, but if players feel that the game isn’t ready for launch things might get messy anyway.
I just thought you should be told, again. The strategy that all of you seem to be using these days is pretty flawed. You need to learn to humble yourself a bit, to plan better, and be prepared for the storm that will hit your servers. Trust me, it will come.