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Is Blizzard getting it wrong with the Diablo III beta test?

Anticipation was high, the fans were going nuts…. the Diablo III beta. With the beta having been out now for a month, a small pool of testers are running and re-running the small amount of content that’s included in the beta. Players are busy seeing how big a ‘massacre’ they can unleash, how quick they can complete the beta, well, they are basically looking for things to do.
So has the Diablo III beta been a massive anti-climax?  Some would argue, usually the players actually on the Beta, that it’s the best thing since sliced bread, but from talking to testers, many have opted to put the beta down after a couple of weeks of play and move on.
For the past fourteen years, Blizzard beta tests have set the community alight with excitement but there is something odd about this beta, it managed to achieve a huge level of hype just prior to release and then fizzle out leaving Diablo players feeling a little empty.

When Blizzard announced the game would be released early 2012, fans started to realise that the chances of actually getting into the test were slim because Blizzard are simply not adding enough testers to the pool on a weekly basis. All the Beta content had also been seen over and over thanks to the wonders of Youtube.
This is a test though right? Yes this is a beta test, not a game demo, even if it does feel like demo due to the length of the Beta. People who are actually testing the game have found some great bugs that Blizzard will be squashing as we speak, but where are the patches? It has been weeks since a patch was made to the launcher and Blizzard has already stated that they will only push out updates when there are updates to be done to the installer.
So what about the bugs? Are Blizzard not getting annoyed by seeing the same bug reports? Should testers not be testing fixes to the previously reported bugs? Well you would have thought so. This test is unusual in that there are no fixes being pushed live and the whole process seems to be an exercise in promotion, one that could be backfiring based on comments from the community who are slowly becoming rather apathetic towards the Diablo 3 Beta.
Blizzard has the opportunity to really fire up PC gamers with this Beta test but seem reluctant to do so now the game has been delayed. It appears there is still a lot of work to be done with the game, and while we don’t know what the development team are concentrating on at the moment because there is no information flowing, and there’s certainly not many straight answers to community questions,  fans are being left in the dark.
If we look back at previous Blizzard beta tests, they have always run for a few months and received continual patches which helped keep interest alive and the community talking. It worked extremely well, but Diablo 3 appears to be a different beast with an emphasis on stress testing hardware/servers and not game mechanics. It can be perceived as more of a ‘tech demo’. The development team must be feeling incredibly confident that they’re design decisions are what Diablo players want as they have already stated the Beta is not really for gameplay testing.
Was the Beta released too early due to pressure from fans , will Blizzard ramp up the testing pool enough and has the Beta test launch backfired?
It certainly looks Like the Beta test was announced too early if a Q1 release had already been decided on by Blizzard, four months is a long testing period based on the amount of content included in the Beta considering bug update fixes are few and far between.
Blizzard will ramp up the testing pool as we move closer, but purely to stress test, they are unlikely to be finding any new bugs in two months time if current testers are doing their jobs properly.

Has the test backfired? Well that’s a matter of opinion, but it appears to have had a negative effect on the fans  who were at least hoping they had some chance of playing the game within a month of the test being announced. Right now fans feel frustrated and perhaps a little let down by the lack of feedback from Blizzard, and I don’t mean the community team feedback who more often than not talk in riddles, but the developers themselves.
With BlizzCon just around the corner, there will be a short flurry of activity as some real information on the state of the game is released by the development team , but it’s what happens after that which will determine if this Beta test is working for the players and Blizzard.
Every month we see beta tests start for all kinds of titles, and by all accounts they are great marketing tools which help build hype and anticipation, Diablo 3’s however is not having the same effect, it’s the exact opposite, and this appears to be purely down to bad planning, communication and timing. We have to remember though, if gamers can wait ten years for the sequel, they’ll be quite happy to wait another four or five months, even if they are a little pissed off.


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