Betas can build a buzz about a game, says CliffyB, Epic's design directive, but can also hurt sales.
Cliff Bleszinski says that Epic is weighing up the pros and cons of giving upcoming shooter BulletStorm a public beta. Bleszinski didn't promise anything, but implied that there would be an opportunity for people to be hands on with the game before its release, whether through a beta or a demo.
While Bleszinski has previously been a critic of betas and demos, he said that he had recently started warming to the idea. He said that there were plenty of upsides to betas however: they were incredibly helpful in the discovery and removal of bugs, they made gamers feel like VIPs, and they helped generate a buzz about the game. The problem with betas, he said, was that some people would play the game and enjoy it, but decide that the beta was enough for them and not buy the finished product.
From what Bleszinski is saying, it seems like the decision comes down to whether the value of bug spotting and building excitement about the game is more valuable than the potential loss of sales that might come from letting people play it pre-release. You've got to assume there are other factors as well - the cost of operate a beta, for example - but Bleszinski sounds like he's rather keen on doing something ahead of launch.
BulletStorm comes out for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on February 2011.