In Free-2-Play games, what is the difference between open beta and the live version?
As an avid Hearthstone player (free to play CCG by Blizzard Entertainment), a lot of people are asking whether the game will have an open beta or not. Blizzard haven't made an open beta for any of their games yet, but I theorise that because this is their first F2P game, they may have no choice but to take all feedback seriously and implement most of it in-game (especially when it lacks so much compared to other CCGs).
My question is what is the difference between open beta and the live version? The game will be free to play regardless of its stance, so anyone can get in and give it a shot.
While a player may not experience any difference, to the developer it usually means that the product is ready for release... almost. Most companies have a closed by invitation only beta release to get the last of the bugs out, and to get user feedback. A free2play game does an open release and usually includes a feedback form with some pre-identified questions along with space for the user to respond with comments. These are carefully scrutinized to make sure the product is ready for release. Additionally the open release usually means that as you noted if enough respondents have a specific shared request, it will usually mean some upgrade will be quickly implemented.
All that being said, some companies will use open beta as a gimmick to attract users under the guise that they may have a say in how the game may be altered, when in fact the game is done. I know that seems cynical but we live in cynical times.
I could have sworn that WoW had an open beta, though it was shockingly brief. Nowadays, I get the impression that some companies don't even know what beta means for mmos. I've played a handful of facebook games that have had beta in the title for years. I want to say there is some sort of monetary benefit to calling it a beta, but I have no idea what that could be.
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