We're just a month away from Gears of War 3's public beta, which not only serves the purpose of delighting us throughout April into early May, but also enables Epic to deliver a pitch-perfect product come September. The beta allows Epic to stress-test their new dedicated servers, identify issues with the netcode and ensure the launch doesn't suffer the same stop-start release Gears 2 endured. But according to Epic's Rod Fergusson, "you can't do technical betas anymore", citing console gamer for being "ignorant".
Fergusson claims the mass exodus of PC gamers to consoles led fans to expect more from developers, which in turn meant the latter couldn't find the feedback they so dearly needed. "In PC days people were used to swapping out video cards, putting in their own memory, formatting your own hard-drive," Fergusson explained, "you were kind of your own tech support so the idea of having an unfinished product to play with and be involved with it was exciting".
PC gamers willingness to explore and investigate meant Epic could determine just what their fans wanted. But with the majority of the market-share now on consoles, where you're held by the hand and led to every decision, but now allowed to tinker or prod your sleek machine, something was lost in the process. "The idea of a console beta that's an unfinished product is really foreign to that audience," laments Fergusson, "so their expectation is that this is representative of the quality of the game and they have to judge it on this".
Fergusson is right, as we've seen with previous betas for the likes of Halo 3 and Reach, fans are quick to judge it as a final project and condemn Bungie and their ilk for failing their fans. Epic have to ensure their Gears 3 beta is as polished as possible, which wasn't in their best interests as developers. "It's really hard to do betas then because you have to make it so polished and so far along that it's hard to get the feedback you want." [Strategy Informer]
In related news, Epic have admitted they'd love to do a Gears of War game... on Facebook. The likes of Dragon Age and Assassins Creed have already dived into the uncharted waters of big-budget browser games, and Epic state they'd love to make on if the theory is right.