Video Games Weekly: Video Games 101 – Beta Games
Hello, friends! At first I thought about reviewing the beta version of Star Wars: Battlefront. Really, that’s not fair to the game since it is not released until December 8th, 2015 (heads up: you may want to preorder it. I’m 90% sure there will be a core purchase verdict from me). Also, I’m not sure how many people in Library Land know what I mean when I say “beta”, so this week is a “Video Games 101” article!
What does “beta” mean? Beta is the second letter in the Greek alphabet, which you probably already knew because librarians are smart. In the gaming world, “beta testing” means part of a video game is pre-released to a set group of users, either employees who work for the company or the general public. The game as a whole is not released until months or sometimes years later.
What are beta testers? You can get paid to be a beta tester for a company, meaning, you would playtest video games for a living! Sounds like a dream come true, right? Uh…in reality…it’s not. It’s nowhere near as fun as you think it would be because the process is actually quite tedious. Beta testers that work for a company are not given the polished, almost complete version that gets released to the public. Instead, beta testers work with clunkier versions of the video game, AND you have to play a portion of it over and over and over and over again.
Here are some good resources if you want to learn more, or you have a teen who is thinking about starting a career in video games.
Why do game developers release beta versions to the public? When a beta version of a game comes out, the game is almost complete, but there are probably some glitches, errors, and bugs that play testers never discovered. So, one way to perfect a video game quickly and efficiently is to release a “beta” version to a set number of people. It’s a great way to get “free” labor from fans like me who are drooling to play a demo before it is released. When users find a bug, or experience a game crash, the game will send a report back to the game developers so the errors can be fixed.
The other reason why game developers release beta versions is to gain publicity and make money. The best example I can use is EA’s Star Wars Battlefront beta release, because it has gained a lot of media attention. Star Wars Battlefront beta was released on October 8th-October 12th, and over nine million people gave it a whirl (including myself). Seriously, you cannot buy that kind of publicity.
If players enjoy playing the beta version, they are more likely to pre-order the game. This means players are paying full price for the game, instead of purchasing it later for a smaller price. If even half of the players that beta tested Star Wars Battlefront ended up pre-ordering it, that means 4.5 million people x $60 = $270,000,000.
What is the difference between “beta” and “early access”? In comparison, “early access” games are nowhere near completion. Players can pay for an early access pass to a game, which means they get cheaper prices and can play test as the game is being developed. There are issues with this, and if you want to learn about it, watch this YouTube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmLz00L6CmY
But…wasn’t Farmville a “beta” version for like, ever? Yes. Farmville was created by Zynga, a small indie gaming company based in California, so it takes them a lot longer to fix bug issues compared to big companies like EA (the company who design Star Wars Battlefront and many others). Also, video games played on social media are different compared to console games. I don’t think I have ever seen a social media game eventually released as a standalone game for a console, but I could be wrong. That’s because one of the pillars in social media games is harassing your Facebook friends to send you necessary items. So, it’s safe to assume that most social media games will always be “in beta” because there is never a set completion date.
Any questions? Did I get anything wrong? Comment below or tweet at me!
By: Alanna Graves
Filed under: Video Games Weekly
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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