Destiny and the disappointing marketing beta

Destiny is the next game coming to us (on Sept 9th) from Bungie. I describe it as a mash-up of the loot & level gameplay of Diablo and the shooter mechanics of Halo.

I have a lot of confidence in Bungie; I’ve been playing their games since Marathon came out on the Mac, and Myth: The Fallen Lords is one of my all-time favorites. Then of course there is Halo, which is the only pure shooter franchise where I play through every game.

This summer Bungie is running a beta for Destiny and I think it’s being handled rather poorly, though I’m not sure if the blame should be placed on Bungie, Sony, or both.

This generation Sony has been borrowing a lot of Microsoft’s tactics: going after exclusive content connected to cross-platform third party games. In Destiny’s case they’ve been pushing the fact that Playstation fans get “early access” to the beta.

Now coming from the land of MMOs, when you tell me there’s a beta I figure it’s going to run for a few weeks at least, or a string of weekends, or something along those lines. It’s supposed to be a way to test the game so the developers can make adjustments, right?

Well of course not. That would be a true beta. This is a marketing beta, and now the details are out. The beta “starts” on July 17th on the Playstation platform. I put that in quotes because the 17th is when you can get your key from Bungie.net. You’ll then have to download the client which could take anywhere from a couple to many hours. Assuming you’re an adult with a job and you can’t get this process going until you get home at 6 pm, you probably won’t play much on the 17th.

Once you finally get in, you can play until the 20th. So basically Thursday the 17th is for getting everything set up, then you can play Friday-Sunday. On Monday the 21st the beta comes down for “Maintenance” for two days. On the 23rd (Wednesday) it comes online again and Xbox players can start playing. It runs until that Sunday (the 27th) and that’s it. (There’s some kind of special reward you can earn for logging in on Saturday, the 26th.)

So for all of Sony’s crowing about getting into the beta early, what it really means is you get a weekend to play when Xboxers can’t, and in total you get 8 days (maybe 8 and a half if the download is fast on the 17th) of beta.

Honestly I was expecting the beta to run through the end of August! Again, my MMO background showing through.

We also don’t yet know how much of the game will be there. Bungie and Sony had an “alpha” after E3 that ran for a few days and it only contained a small ‘slice’ of the game with a low level cap. (I’ve already forgotten if it was 8 or 10…something like that.) Hopefully July’s “beta” will contain more of the game and not just be another demo.

Originally we were told that you had to pre-order to get into the ‘beta’ but now I see all kinds of sites giving out keys. That’s bad news because it means once again this is about marketing, not helping to make Destiny a better game. If the beta was just for people interested enough in the game to have pre-ordered then maybe it could have been an actual beta, but now Bungie is going to want to tightly control the experience to get ‘testers’ who haven’t pre-ordered to buy the product.

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