Early Access MMOs and Burning Out

There is a lot I dislike about paid early access / pay-for-alpha, much of which I’ve already written about here. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that I think these schemes encourage burning out before a game even launches.

I’m worried about this particularly in relation to ArcheAge. I know a surprising number of people who bought the $150 alpha access pack. And on the one hand, I’m excited that so many people are into the game! On the other hand… if the dedicated players are in the game now, in May, will there be anywhere near this level of commitment once it launches for real in early Fall?

If I luck into getting a free alpha/beta key for a game, I will probably dabble with it but I won’t feel obligated to try and wring the most out of my playtime. However, if I paid $150 (or any amount really) to get access to a game I’d want to dive in with abandon immediately and get my money’s worth!

Historically, of course, the first few months of an MMO are the most exciting. The playerbase is at its happiest, there’s huge swaths of content yet to be experienced, and we all blissfully bumble around not knowing where we are or how things work. If you buy and play the alpha now, though.. will you still be playing the game five months from now? If you are still playing, won’t most of the mystery have worn off by then?

tumblr marpi1nZbi1r9n04yo1 400 Early Access MMOs and Burning Out

from http://noobwowplayer.tumblr.com/

It just strikes me as yet more splitting of the playerbase in a genre that requires concurrent numbers to survive. To experience that Zeitgeist, that rush of everyone being new.. you basically have to luck into an alpha key or drop $150 right now. By the time the game launches a number of the current crop of breathless fans will have moved on after playing for 6 or 7 months (which is not unreasonable).

I miss the days when barring a few lucky beta testers, we all got to start an MMO at the same time. It seems like games now charge for the ability to participate in those glorious first few months when we’re all noobs, and it’s a bummer.

Author: Jessica Cook

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8 Comments

  1. I’m not really all that into much more than a little bit of early access and I’m really unlikely to pay extra for the privilege. For an MMO, what I’m looking for usually is enough to get past the basic learning curve and enough of the starting area so I’m not worrying about content as I’m fighting through the noob starting horde. Aside from that, I much prefer to experience the content with the larger community.

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  2. I don’t know. Part of me attributes some of WoW’s success to the fact that they sold out of copies at launch. That meant that about 3 months later there was a fresh wave of people who joined, who were unable to join the earlier wave but wanted to.

    I’ve always thought that waves of people signing up might be better than everyone entering at launch and then leaving together.
    RohanV´s last post: Useful on Day One

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  3. I agree on the burnout issue; especially, it seems, with Blizz content that is so easy to blaze through – after the second alt, it’s probably not all that fun any more.

    I got in on the Cata beta. Logged in. Thought about what I’d do next … and realized that I didn’t want to do anything that would ruin the game for me. I logged out, uninstalled the test client, and took my leave. Never again.
    Grimmtooth´s last post: Undermine Journal Issues

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  4. I’ve been a part of two paid early access games, including ArcheAge. In some cases, the burnout risk definitely applies to me, but I think it’s game dependent. For example, I’m not very excited about Wildstar (if no one I knew were playing it, I wouldn’t even consider it) but I am planning to play because many people I love spending time with are going to be playing and hanging out with them will be fun. In that context, I have no interest in early Wildstar because I think it’ll need that new-game-shine to hold my interest. For the right MMO, though, I can (and have) played for years without running out of things to get excited about.

    Another thing that influenced me is that I am generally a one-character MMO player. Boo, alts! Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not until you’ve played a game for quite a lot while that you realize you should have done things differently: maybe you really wish you’d taken a different tradeskill, for example, or claimed a housing plot on the southern side of the continent instead of the north. In games where those sorts of choices exist and matter, I actually get a lot of…comfort, I suppose, from being able to experiment and try stuff out with no risk of wasting resources or screwing stuff up. I like being able to go in and do a lot of research so that, at launch, I know how to get what I want.

    I certainly have other thoughts on the subject, and there were other motivations for me to decide to take the plunge, but those are the two burnout-related points that came to mind.

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  5. Interesting to hear you bring it up. I’ve been pondering the launch zeitgeist too.

    It seems with the surfeit of MMOs on the market now, we have a large flock of players who move from one MMO to another, consuming it within 3-6 months and then move on, leaving behind a smaller percentage who fall in love with that MMO.

    I wonder, how many MMOs are we going to go through before the launch crowd loses critical mass, and how many MMOs will manage to survive with those few left behind?
    Jeromai´s last post: Wildstar: Odds and Ends and Approaching the End of the Road

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  6. I’ve disagreed with you about your dislikes of paid alpha/early access before, Liore, either the reasons themselves or the importance of them, but this is definitely a point where I agree wholeheartedly with you. It’s also one of the major reasons I refuse to participate in such things, let alone pay for the privilege. I just cannot imagine forgiving myself if I paid for a game before release, felt obligated to play said unfinished game “to get my money’s worth”, then burned out on it just as it released (or even beforehand).

    And what of those eager players who pony up their cash, only to find they don’t enjoy this unfinished game as much as they were expecting? You know the ones – they expect a polished, pretty-much-complete experience despite the fact they knew they were paying to test the game. Or they rage out because their particular complaints weren’t addressed. Or they get more and more frustrated as they put in their time and constructive feedback, only to be ignored, or have the problems “fixed” in a way they weren’t expecting, and by the time release rolls around they’ve seen the early content so many times they can’t bear to do it again…

    Yeah, I am definitely disliking the drive towards ubiquitous early access. I think it is fine for a very few select titles like Landmark, but overall I think you are right.
    Dahakha´s last post: Hearthstone Key Concepts: Basics Addendum

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  7. I feel ya’. It’s a terrible trend, in my opinion. Sure, they label it “beta”, but then that comes with the expectation that you’re going to help them find and squash bugs. Which isn’t really the case. We just want to play the game when it’s really new. But then our experience is flawed, it lacks population, it lacks quality control. But the developers make a quick buck, and give some financial stability for the launch of the game itself. That stability comes at the cost of those early access players, though. You’re absolutely right, they won’t stick around. Community makes people stick around, and betas have very tiny communities.

    For this reason, I’m not a fan of betas anymore, and I will never want to enter one again. I’d much rather have the game when it is done and playable then when it’s fresh, but bad and ridiculously buggy. If I’m already behind the curve, so be it… I’m use to being behind the curve as is.
    Ocho´s last post: Leveling Up the Hardware: 5 Recent Tech Upgrades Worth Every Penny

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