Aion beta’s nerdrage evoking policy

I resisted posting this whine, and it is a whine, but I just can’t get it out of my head.

I got into the Aion beta via a paid-subscription to Fileplanet (and getting into betas is my main reason for being a paid member there). By the end of the July 4th beta weekend, I was pretty burned out on Aion and had decided not to pre-order.

In the weeks since, I’ve been feeling the urge to play it again. Specifically to experience the combat system again. I’m not even sure why; I wanted to play more to identify what it was that was calling me back, or if this urge was even based on reality or just faulty memory.

So I was excited about this weekend’s beta event. I eagerly updated my client, logged in and got the message that my account wasn’t eligible for this beta event. A bit of research confirmed it: the Fileplanet keys (and many, many other keys) were for that 1 single weekend in July.

Nerdrage ensued. I could try to justify it (it was a pretty big download just for a couple days of play; I would’ve tried more classes had I know I just had 3 days, etc) but the real truth of the matter is, it just felt like a bait and switch. Jump through the hoops to get in, we’ll give you a taste, but now we’re going to cut you off. It felt like artificial scarcity designed to try to increase demand. It felt sleazy, like a tactic that crystal meth dealer who hangs out down on the corner would use.

My assumption is that their plan is something like this:

Give a bunch of people a very short beta access, then cut them off. Wait a few weeks for the satisfaction levels to settle, then open beta again, but deny most of the people access, unless they pre-order.

A marketing-driven scheme to psychologically manipulate the audience into pre-ordering. It has nothing to do with beta-testing. But to be honest, over that July weekend I was just playing for free, not really testing. So on some level we’re even.

But I come out of the situation pretty angry at NCSoft and Aion, feeling the urge to say something childish like “I hope the company goes bankrupt!” but of course that isn’t really true — it isn’t the worker bees coding the AI and creating the art that made this decision, and I wouldn’t want to see such a tragic outcome for them. But whatever marketing person came up with this plan…his or her head on a pike? That I’d like to see (metaphorically speaking). Sometimes psychological marketing tactics backfire, I guess. And I bet a lot of people did turn around and pre-order so as to get into this beta event.

12 thoughts on “Aion beta’s nerdrage evoking policy

  1. I agree with you 100%. The fact that Aion is out in the East means that this here in the West isn’t even a REAL beta test. It’s just an advertisement. It’s easier to call it BETA, because beta testers know that yes, there will be restrictions (character wipes, lockouts, etc) that the company can enact with relative impunity. With a “free 14 day trial”, they can’t do that, and they have to take everyone who wants to try.

  2. To be fair, I reckon this plan doesn’t orginate with marketing – or at least, not with a competent marketing department. Marketing people (such as myself) have to consider negative publicity, and long-terms effects on the playerbase. No, to me, this looks like the great evil of the Sales Department.

  3. I’m glad you self-labeled this as nerdrage so I know what angle you’re coming from. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I certainly feel for you. If I were more interested in the game, I would have preordered by now.

  4. OK, I’ll happily shift the blame to the Sales Department. ๐Ÿ™‚

    If I’d known ahead of time that the key was just for a weekend, I still probably would’ve done it, but I wouldn’t have gotten my expectations up for this past weekend. It was just the whole “Oh wow! Another beta weekend? I’m going to give the game another try!” anticipation thing being dashed that invoked my ire ๐Ÿ™‚

    But it was definitely a nerdrage moment and I’m back to not really caring much about Aion now. The situation nudged the needle a bit away from “Pre-Order” but it wasn’t very close to begin with. I do look forward to trying the game once the client drops in price, but I’ve got plenty to play while I wait for that to happen.

  5. This is not the first time NCSoft uses the “Beta Weekend” method. But in the case of Guild Wars it was at least a real beta.

    There will be open beta (weekends?) later on, and two more scheduled closed beta weekends till then.
    What I do not like is this pay 5 eur to preview/preorder thing.

    I already twittered you my thoughts about it, it is a clever scheme because it keeps people excited. You cannot do much in three days… keeps people hungry for more.

  6. If you have played in the beta events, you know very well it IS a beta. The game is being localized to Western content through changes to quests and what not. These need massive testing & proofreading because it is hard to internally test all those changes over and over apparently. Either way, while it may not be the same beta test you are used to, it is a beta – the feedback we are giving in the test is being considered and many new options being implemented that make the game more familiar to western audiences.

  7. @Mav — You kind of make my point for me. If it’s a ‘real’ beta, then let enough testers in that you can get everything tested. And perhaps they did that.

    But that isn’t *all* they did. They also supplied Fileplanet (and a bunch of other sites) with “beta keys” that were only good for the 4th of July weekend. But they never pitched them as 1-weekend event keys, they just said “If you’re a paying member of Fileplanet you can get an Aion Beta Key.” without explaining the conditions involved.

    That’s advertising, plain and simple, IMO.

  8. Yes.. its marketing of course it is.. this is a business isnt it? its like going to a grocery store and they give you a food sample, do you get angry and start throwing things when they only give you that tiny little block of cheese? (sarcasm, not trying to offend lol)

    honestly i think having the game up for only a few days is a very good idea when it comes to headache size on their part. dont have a bunch of idiots spamming their forums with countless comments that you have to sift through to find anything that is even remotely productive to the team. i think most of their testing is internal and they are rewarding those who pre-ordered by giving them a taste of what is to come, and giving them a slight edge on opening day since they’ll know the games low level basics.

    agreeing with mav.. the game was given an overhaul.. and the version that is coming out in september is not even released in korea yet, its still being tested over there. all i can do is a sit and wait till july 31st to see whats changed.

  9. @Ashli:

    The analogy would be more like this:

    Pay a 3rd party X dollars and get free cheese at the supermarket! You go there once, have some cheese. Come back a few weeks later and they say “Oh, that was for 1 day only.”

    If they had said, upfront, that the key was for 1 event, I wouldn’t be complaining at all about it. It’s the deception-by-omission that I take offense to.

    Maybe it’s smart marketing, but they lost my business, at least in the short term, by doing it.

    I just don’t think beta-via-preorder is the best way to get honest, critical feedback for a game. That’s a self-selecting sample of people already enthusiastic for the game. To get good feedback, you need random samplings. You need people saying “Here’s why I don’t like this game:” and giving real, solid examples.

  10. I guess I am a little late, but as a side note:

    Beta testing for Aion is greatly needed as when the game was brought to the west it was given a directx10 facelift as well as the combat system made “more exciting.”

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