Yesterday, Bungie announced a two-day extension for the Destiny 2 beta, continuing a long-running video game industry tradition of announcing the same surprise news again and again. It’s as sure a thing there is in video games: If there’s a beta, it will be extended.
In video game parlance, a “beta” is a near-final version of a game that is used for testing, tweaking, and fixing bugs. Game companies will sometimes open their betas to the public, especially for multiplayer games, in hopes of testing out their servers and finding significant problems. Betas also make for good demos, giving players a taste of a game like Destiny 2 weeks before it comes out. And they always last longer than game publishers say they will.
We first wrote about this ridiculous trend in 2015, in the wake of Star Wars: Battlefront, Rainbow Six: Siege, and Battlefield: Hardline all going live with betas that were then “extended.” Since then, we’ve seen these beta extensions for The Division, Overwatch, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Doom, Friday the 13th, Halo Wars 2, Steep, For Honor, and even Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. If a video game has a beta, it’s safe to say that it will be extended, often because of what the developers say is fan demand:
- Bethesda: “It’s not over yet. We’ve extended the #DOOM Open Beta due to overwhelming demand. #FightLikeHell all day until tonight, April 18, 11:59pm ET”
- 343 Industries: “Yup!! Because so many folk have asked, we’re extending the HW2 beta to Wednesday! #HaloWars2”
- Ubisoft: “Over the last few days, we’ve seen an incredible amount of excitement for the game… In order to allow everyone who has access to fully enjoy the Beta, we’re happy to announce we’re extending the duration by 24h for all players.”
It’s certainly possible that Ubisoft, Activision, Bethesda, Microsoft, Bandai Namco, and other video game publishers all independently decided to extend their betas in the interest of pleasing fans and testing servers. It’s also possible that it’s tough to estimate how long a beta needs to be.
Another view is that these beta extensions are part of a carefully crafted marketing plan, decided months in advance by a PR team that knows how to drive buzz. What gets more headlines, a beta that is announced for one week, or a beta that is announced for five days and then miraculously extended?
This is not a nefarious practice, of course—longer video game betas can be beneficial for both players and developers—it’s just a silly one.
Feel free to insert your own joke here about Destiny being a beta that was extended for three years. I would, but it’d be too easy.