Titanfall ‘Beta’: not a beta, but an old school marketing strategy

Titanfall ‘Beta’: not a beta, but an old school marketing strategy

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Titanfall Demo
FTFY.

Veiled by the overexploited ‘beta test’ stage of game development, EA decided to email PC and Xbox One Titanfall beta codes to anyone who registered for one before the 15th of February. A few days later, the beta was open to anyone who owned an Xbox One. The beta testing finished by the end of the 19th of February.

I don’t own an Xbox One, but I tried the PC version of the so-called Titanfall ‘beta’ on a Windows 8.1 Boot Camp partition on my MacBook Pro, and it worked flawlessly; no bugs whatsoever. In fact, it played better than many retail games out there – I’m looking at you, Battlefield 4.

Playing the Titanfall beta brought back a few childhood memories. It reminded me of those game demo discs included with the Xbox magazines that I would buy when I was 10 from those classic ‘kioskos’ of Madrid.

The Titanfall beta is an obvious attempt at promotional game demoing. You could say that beta releases have always been promotional, but I have never come across a beta as bug-less as this one. Actually, I’ve never played a beta without any bugs before this one. You would expect some bugs in a game that is experimenting with the classic FPS formula by introducing a not purely PvP multiplayer with a high degree of verticality.

Aimed by a Titan as you wall-run the facade of a building? Can’t get as vertical as that.

This prompts the following question: was it an act of charity when Respawn Entertainment coder Jon Shiring announced on Twitter “let’s break it,” to make the Xbox One beta testing open? I’d say it was a good excuse to test the limit capacity of their servers, as well as a way to drag in more consumers.

I can’t really complain, though, because ultimately, beta or not, it was free game. Obviously, this came with its content and time constraints, since it only involved a training level, three multiplayer game tipes, two maps and a maximum level of 14; which were all taken down by the end of the 19th of February.

After that quibble, it wouldn’t be fair to not give Titanfall some praise. Playing Titanfall was a really enjoyable experience. The gimmicky double-jumping, wall-running and hyper-mobility definitely made the game extremely fast-paced, which really filled the player with adrenaline. Moreover, the mech fights, anti-mech weaponry and target auto-locking smart pistols added a new layer of action to the arena. You have to be quick, but also vigilant at all times.

A view of the evacuation dropship from above, “Pilots, retreat!”

My favourite feature was hands down the multiplayer epilogue, which makes the losers of the game still feel motivated to make an insane rush for their lives, as they attempt to retreat from the battlefield via a dropship.

As I said, all of this worked perfectly, which makes it silly to call it a beta. One could argue that it would be called beta because it involves giving feedback on changes that could be made to the game.  However, surely, significant changes would not be able to be done before the release of the actual game, the 13th of March, which is less than a month away. Also, whether you were a Titan or a Pilot, the gameplay felt very balanced anyway.

I’m sure this inconsistency in the ‘beta’ term is not very important, but at the end of the day, it is another of those buzzwords that one has to be aware of. The whole point of a beta test is to allow the consumers have their own take at the game development process. Playing the Titanfall beta, I did not feel that kind of active role; I felt like I was being sold a game. With that said, I think it wouldn’t be too unreasonable to add the ‘beta’ concept to the gaming consumerism debate that is going on lately with regards to DLCs, in-game microtransactions and free-to-play/pay-to-win games.

 

Hernán Romero (@hernrome), Online Games Editor

 

 

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