Every two years as a WoW expansion draws nearer, it seems I have to write the same article questioning the validity of Blizzard’s beta selection process. Despite pointing out many flaws in Blizzard’s methodology and offering suggestions to reward customer loyalty, it seems nothing has changed.
My main gripe is that the insular and impervious culture at Blizzard seemingly cares little about the concept of rewarding customer loyalty. The reason may be simple: they are still the top dog in the MMO business which means they don’t have to care. My problem with this is that this kind of attitude is short-sighted. The day will eventually come when a light bulb will turn on above a Blizzard executive — probably after they see declining subscriptions – and suddenly they’ll understand that customer loyalty makes sense.
Am I Loyal Enough?
Here’s my current situation as a loyal WoW subscriber: I’ve been playing since the Friends & Family Alpha back in 2004 — I used to know a friend of a Blizzard employee and I was fortunate to get an alpha invite many years ago. During the alpha, I provided the devs with countless hours of written feedback which I believe benefited the MMO.
When WoW went live in 2004, I purchased the Collector’s Edition and I have dutifully purchased a Collector’s Edition ever since then. There was a point where I’ve had 2 WoW accounts as well. I’ve purchased the live PPV event last year to watch BlizzCon 2009. I have even put money down this year on a 2010 Cataclysm Collector’s Edition.
Also during that time I’ve run a big WoW guild, managed WoW forums, spent countless hours literally teaching many newbies how to play WoW, submitted hundreds of petitions reporting chat harassment and TOS violations in an effort to make the WoW community on my local server better, and last but not least published scores of articles on how to make WoW better here on this website.
The result for all those years of continued loyalty to Blizzard and WoW and probably a couple of thousands of dollars in purchases later? Not one single beta invite.
It’s About Time…
At least Blizzard offered people who pre-ordered the Starcraft 2: Collector’s Edition a beta slot for Starcraft 2 as an incentive. Why would they not offer a beta slot to someone who has pre-ordered the Cataclysm Collector’s Edition?
It stands to reason that loyal subscribers who have demonstrated years of dedication as a player know the game pretty well and would most likely be better beta testers than players who have just started playing or play sporadically.
How to Get a Cataclysm Beta Slot: Cancel Your WoW Account
What adds injury to insult is that Gordon at We Fly Spitfires recently reported that many WoW players who recently canceled their subscriptions have suddenly and inexplicably got beta invites.
That’s right, two weeks before his account was due to expire Blizzard decide to invite my brother to partake in the Cataclysm beta. Lo and behold, a few rabid schoolboy emails to me later and he was logging into the world of Azeroth once again, this time as a Worgen Rogue (even though he swore he’d had enough of WoW for a good long time). Furthermore, seeing as one needs an active account to take part in the beta, he’s now contemplating re-subscribing solely to keep playing it.
When I heard this, I immediately canceled my WoW account. Money, it seems is the only language that Blizzard understands.
Therefore I urge everyone who would like to get a Cataclysm beta slot to cancel their account.
MMO Press: Fair and Balanced?
Too often the practice in the video game industry has been to give beta slots to paid corporate bloggers at various popular websites — you all know the names of these sites — so these writers can continually pound a positive promotional drumbeat for the company. (You’ll notice that these websites largely consist of a steady drip of cheerful, uncritical, puff pieces on WoW). Using the concept of reciprocity, they know that by giving out beta slots and paid press junkets they can influence the chances that their products will get favorable reviews.
These corporate websites in turn get all kinds of content and exclusives that keep their readers coming back for more. This is precisely why you can not completely trust the establishment gaming websites to give you objective, impartial and unbiased reporting.
Even as far back as the early 2000’s I was one of the only people to question these kinds of practices during the days of EverQuest and SOE’s Fanfaires. Needless to say, being a MMO whistle-blower and exposing these kinds of shenanigans didn’t make me very popular with a certain EQ druid forum.
To test this theory, about 2 weeks ago I emailed the Blizzard PR department and requested a Cataclysm “press” beta slot. I laid all my cards on the table and explained that in the past I have been very critical of Blizzard and World of Warcraft and I was willing to give Cataclysm an honest, no-holds barred appraisal on this blog. To date, I have not heard back from them. Not even the courtesy of a flat out “no” to my request.
I’d like to close this article with some humor. Here’s a video that makes fun of the current Blizzard beta selection process for Cataclysm. Enjoy!