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Author Topic: Sony getting into the "buy it in alpha" arena  (Read 626 times)
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CeeKay
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« on: March 26, 2013, 03:58:39 PM »

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Sony's flexibility with indie developers something it's been driving home for a little while now also extends to the concept of buy-in-alpha games. It's a concept that's gained acceptance after the wild success of Minecraft and we were curious if Sony was open to the idea, particularly after Steam announced its "early access" program.

"Yeah, if it doesn't have any bugs that are completely destroying the world," Adam Boyes, VP of publisher and developer relations at Sony America told Joystiq last night at the PlayStation Indie Arcade event. "[CCP's Dust 514] is a great example of putting out content that you know is not final. If you want to monetize it, that's fine. I mean, if you want to put out a game that's playable and does pass the checklists and stuff, you can. If it doesn't sell and you can't support, you may not want to support, but we absolutely support that."

they're going to be doing this for for all their platforms
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TiLT
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« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2013, 05:25:32 PM »

I guess the real question is whether or not they'll charge the developers out the nose for patches like both Microsoft and Sony have been doing this last generation. I suspect they'll both be turning that behavior down a few notches, but we'll just have to wait and see.
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tcweidner
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« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2013, 08:42:34 PM »

would you buy cookies and cakes at a bake sale that were only baked half way?  Then for the life of me I dont get people paying for software not done yet, are people lives so shallow and empty that being deluded into thinking "I'm first" actually means something to them. 
Hell maybe musicians should jump in on this trend of stupidity and allow people to come and pay for sound checks before a concert.
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« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2013, 11:36:07 PM »

It's more about people jumping in when they feel the game is good enough for what they want. Minecraft was in alpha and beta forever, and it was still very playable. In any case, this isn't something you're going to see a lot of.
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« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2013, 12:24:11 AM »

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this isn't something you're going to see a lot of.
we will have to wait and see about that, The seedy side of the gaming industry is all about monetization and gimmicks, so if they can make money selling half baked and half ass games, they will certainly do it.
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« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2013, 12:46:54 AM »

The potential upside is that it also gives the developers insight into what players enjoy or dislike about their game as well as early adopters a chance to give feedback about past changes or upcoming features. 

There are plenty of potential downsides as well, including aforesaid sleazy business types, a vocal minority pushing development direction, and so on.  In the end, I say do what you feel is right on a per-project basis and vote with your wallet.
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« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2013, 10:09:21 AM »

Quote from: tcweidner on March 27, 2013, 12:24:11 AM

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this isn't something you're going to see a lot of.
we will have to wait and see about that, The seedy side of the gaming industry is all about monetization and gimmicks, so if they can make money selling half baked and half ass games, they will certainly do it.

No, the reason I say you're not going to see a lot of it is because it's a very risky thing to do, and the games industry hates risks. A lot of gamers don't understand that "alpha" and "beta" means that a game isn't finished, and will judge it as a full release. This generates negative press, which hurts the game. Publishers don't want to touch something like that.
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« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2013, 04:52:10 PM »

Quote from: tcweidner on March 26, 2013, 08:42:34 PM

would you buy cookies and cakes at a bake sale that were only baked half way?  Then for the life of me I dont get people paying for software not done yet, are people lives so shallow and empty that being deluded into thinking "I'm first" actually means something to them. 
Hell maybe musicians should jump in on this trend of stupidity and allow people to come and pay for sound checks before a concert.
For your musician analogy, it's more like...pay for the concert, but be allowed into sound checks at no extra cost...
I like the early access stuff.. It gets you somewhat playing a game now and still gets you the final product. I have the Arma 3 early access. I have owned every Arma game so far and knew this was an easy preorder, but I also get to mess around with it now instead of having to wait for the full release..
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tcweidner
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« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2013, 11:17:10 PM »

I beg to differ, if you paid for it, and your are playing it, it isnt in alpha, or beta, it is a released product.  Alpha , beta are nothing more than meaningless marketing jargon at that point. Jargon that simply allows companies to distribute half baked products.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2013, 11:19:40 PM by tcweidner » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2013, 12:03:58 AM »

Quote from: tcweidner on March 28, 2013, 11:17:10 PM

I beg to differ, if you paid for it, and your are playing it, it isnt in alpha, or beta, it is a released product.  Alpha , beta are nothing more than meaningless marketing jargon at that point. Jargon that simply allows companies to distribute half baked products.

You are either contradicting yourself here, or defining "released product" in such a way that it can no longer be under development or tested. When a product reaches alpha stage, letting people buy and play it doesn't make it any less alpha. Yes, it's a released product, but that has nothing to do with alpha/beta states.

Traditionally, Alpha means that the product is feature complete and ready for internal testing, while Beta means that the product is ready for external testing. Just because a company decides to be transparent and give fans a chance to jump in earlier than normal doesn't change that.
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« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2013, 04:01:06 AM »

Many years ago, I was a part of the first ever monetized alpha release. I am still waiting for the final release to come out. I am not surprised it's taken this long with no news as that game was clearly decades away from being ready for release. That was called "Ultima IX". smile
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tcweidner
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« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2013, 03:11:53 PM »

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You are either contradicting yourself here, or defining "released product" in such a way that it can no longer be under development or tested. When a product reaches alpha stage, letting people buy and play it doesn't make it any less alpha. Yes, it's a released product, but that has nothing to do with alpha/beta states.
not contradicting myself at all. I understand and I know what beta and alpha are, I do this for a living.  Fact remains, when you start to charge for a product, at that point, its is a released product,  (or a contractual arrangement has been set with specific milestones and dates), with regard to regular consumer products just because I call it something ( be it beta/alpha or tomato) doesnt change that fact, if payment is required, its is a launched product, no matter what stage you were in. As far as I know people arent paying and then filling out paperwork to become general third party contractors for that company,they are paying for access to the software.

As far a software, Software is always being updated, tested, and tweaked through out its life cycle, doesnt mean it never leaves beta.  
What is new is this use of testing jargon which just allows companies to release products, yet hide behide industry jargon which may or may not limit their liability on their shoddy released product. After all, why not never leave beta now and just copy and paste every dissatisfied customer with " its just beta of course you cant expect everything to work".

Real alpha testing is done internally and people are paid to perform the testing, real beta testing is limited via control groups and stays under NDAs.  When you start having people pay? that changes everything, its a launched product at that point because believe me if they were really testing, no one would pay for that, its brutal and monotonousness work. People are paying to play, its ridiculous how far this has come, but hey if it keeps up, maybe I will stop complaining on ethical grounds and  just sit back and let people pay me before I ever even complete my job..   hmmm,  now wait a minute,  this may not be so bad after all.  Slap down some crappy code, and have others polish the design, test it for years and pay me all the while, why should I even care about finishing it...nice, maybe Im looking at this all wrong,but of course if we did this in the business software world, the whole world would come crashing to the ground... oh well, it was a nice thought smile
« Last Edit: March 29, 2013, 03:47:38 PM by tcweidner » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2013, 05:11:30 PM »

I work in software development too, so I think we both know what we're talking about. However, you're reading too much into the concept of released software. The internal testing and development doesn't have to change just because players have access to the game from alpha stage. As long as development continues in the same way it would have otherwise, perhaps with the difference that they're now getting input from more sources, what does the public's access to the software have to do with anything at all? Minecraft is the perfect example of this kind of thing. It was a very unfinished title when players were first given the option to purchase it, with the caveat that they knew that they were getting into an alpha. Since then the game has gone through tons and tons of development, until it finally was considered final. At what point did the game's public release change its alpha or beta statuses?

Software development has always gone from alpha to beta to release. This is a natural way to do things when you want the public's first impression of your product to be ideal. This natural progression, to someone who's very used to it, would make it seem that one must come after another. This is not the case.
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« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2013, 05:45:22 PM »

Minecraft was one guy.  Once the big companies start getting aboard this thing, there's no way they'll warp it into something that makes them money, right?  Look how well that's worked for IAP.

I don't think tc is reading too much into the concept of "released software" when that includes a payment on the user end. 

The idea of getting in on the ground floor and seeing behind the scenes or buying a ticket for the concert but getting to see the band warm up and watch their PA pick the green M&Ms out of the bowl is cool.  But what they're really asking you to do here is pick the green M&Ms out yourself (or at least sit there, pointing and saying, "There's one").

Now, if we're talking about some indie band that isn't at the rider stage yet, that might be okay.  Same goes for a one-man indie team (a la Minecraft).  It's a unique system that exists because it is incredibly difficult for a one-man indie team to make a game like Minecraft to the point where it's playable.

But it's an incredibly slippery slope to the point where big publishers are using this as a way to eliminate a cost (the alpha or beta testers) and warp it into a revenue stream.  It's hard to see clearly when there are dollar signs in your eyes.
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« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2013, 05:50:36 PM »

my problem is that it lowers the bar to what becomes acceptable to charge for. These people are not becoming testers, ( as I stated they arent becoming third party external contractors)they are becoming end users. (Sure they can give feedback, so what, who cant ?)
 What changes when payment is asked for and given is the legal principals that come into play when two parties exchange a product/service for payment.The only reason this is even feasible and being undertaken  is because in entertainment software the liability damage for shoddy software is low, therefore they can get away with releasing half ass software at any stage they wish.  I can only imagine the liability damages you would open yourself up to in other software arenas if you tried something such as this.

Again, I just see this as a monetization ploy that just lowers the bar as to what kind of software becomes acceptable as a release candidates in the entertainment software industry.

If they want to make alpha and beta more transparent and open, good for them, its when they ask to be paid for their half-baked software that I have a problem with.

edit-I agree with Bullwinkle here, I have no problem with Kickstarter or in with unique situations like Minecraft, I worry about large corps jumping in and taking advantage and lowering the bar.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2013, 05:56:42 PM by tcweidner » Logged

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« Reply #15 on: March 29, 2013, 05:57:18 PM »

Quote from: tcweidner on March 29, 2013, 05:50:36 PM

I can only imagine the liability damages you would open yourself up to in other software arenas if you tried something such as this.

It's nothing new. In my company we let important customers use functionality that isn't fully developed yet, making sure they know that they're taking a risk, but also supporting them every step of the way. While we don't use terms like "alpha" and "beta" in my company, it still doesn't change the fact that these features are still being developed and tested, no matter if there are customers out there using them. These aren't just fancy testers either. They're being given this functionality early because they need it, not because we want to test it.
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« Reply #16 on: March 29, 2013, 06:09:02 PM »

tilt,
 this type of arrangement goes back to why I stated
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or a contractual arrangement has been set with specific milestones and dates

Certain business software are and need to be developed and tested with the client who is purchasing it, this software is quite different from off the shelf consumer level software we are talking about here with games.

And by the way, Im sure you company has a load of liability insurance as I know when we deal with governments all the time, the risk doesnt lie with them, it goes back to you.  They spell it out in every contract I have ever seen, requiring certain amounts of liability coverage to be held.

well anyway, its been a nice conversation, thanks,  you guys have a nice holiday weekend  smile
« Last Edit: March 29, 2013, 06:17:20 PM by tcweidner » Logged

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