You clicked on this thinking I was about to break the Anthem closed alpha NDA, didn’t you? For shame! I’m a professional and would never do something like that (on purpose), and besides, when I’m writing this it doesn’t even start for another hour.

Yet at least one aspect of Anthem is making a positive impression on me all the same. As we approach this closed alpha, it’s very clear that this is…a real alpha test. It’s in very limited windows, it’s very, very early, as the game doesn’t come out until the end of February, and it…is under an NDA, meaning that even if I love the game, I can’t talk about it.

With the alpha launching today, Anthem also announced a future event that would open up the game to all players. And I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not a beta. Here’s what BioWare’s Jon Warner had to say about it:

“To those of you who registered to playtest the game, we hope you enjoy it. You’ll have a chance at the end to provide us feedback, we’d love to hear from you. For those who aren’t able to get in and still want to try out the game, don’t worry we’ll have another chance for you to do so in our VIP Demo starting Jan. 25, or Open Demo starting Feb. 1. The demos will include sections of the final game, so you can enjoy Anthem ahead of its February 22 launch.”

You’ll note that the word “beta” is not found anywhere in there at all, and there’s no mention of a beta in the entire article. Rather, BioWare appears to be calling a demo an actual demo, rather than a beta, which is what everyone else calls their own early tests. Fallout 76 had its “beta” even closer to launch, and practically nothing at all was changed from that to release, despite all the myriad issues.

As an ongoing Games-as-Service type title, Anthem theoretically could have just launched with a beta tag attached to it, explaining that they’re still learning and balancing as they go (which they’ll do anyway), similar to what we’re seeing with Red Dead Online, a beta with no real end date in sight, and now the ability to carry over your character to full release, whatever exactly that means.

I understand that this is mostly a semantic issue at this point, but it’s one that I think is actually important. Games constantly hide behind the shield of “beta” because they’re in fact, very much unfinished. The vast, vast majority of the time, what you’re playing in a beta is almost exactly like the final release, if it isn’t the final release itself, just with a beta badge that’s supposed to excuse ongoing issues and bugs.

Declaring something a true demo means you are confident enough in the game to say outright that it is representative of the final product. I think that’s an important distinction, and one we don’t see often enough in the industry. We see limited time free trials for games, but that’s usually after launch to spur sales. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I heard a demo actually called a demo for a major release like this.

Anyway, I just wanted to give some props to BioWare for an issue that most probably don’t care about, but the beta debate has irked me a lot the last few years, and I hope this true “demo” trend catches on.

Follow me on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Read my new sci-fi thriller novel Herokiller, available now in print and online. I also wrote The Earthborn Trilogy.



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