Betas: do they help or harm?

Well, this is a blog I thought about as I was playing Bad Company 2. And no, this is not going to be quest spam. This actually took a decent amount of time to think about and then write. So I do hope you enjoy it. But I was wondering... do betas help or harm? Granted, this might be one of those questions where the first answer ("Yes"), is probably going to be the majority answer. I suppose I came up with this question after reading a tweet from my TweetDeck feed, where a guy had said:
 

Consumers and Gamers

 

Bungie shouldn't have released the Reach beta pre-access. It's going to make a lot of people very frustrated and sad.

Now, before you dismiss this argument as that of someone who does not have the beta, I'm almost certain he has the beta. He was tweeting his thoughts about it as he played it. Now, maybe you're wondering how the beta could frustrate and disappoint gamers. I was the same, and then I thought about my own view. Halo: Reach will be an absolutely massive launch. It is Bungie's final swansong for the Halo franchise after all, and it's not impossible that in the eyes of some, Halo will die after this game. Anyway, on to my point about this tweet: how could someone be frustrated or sad with the beta? The beta currently is being given away to people who are fast enough on Twitter, or who have gotten access to it somehow. And yes, they are getting it earlier than the ODST owners. ODST owners will be waiting around two or three days before they may experience the beta that Twitter users could potentially have been experiencing the entire time. So therefore, the Twitter users will be more experienced with the game, and this factor can disappoint and frustrate.
 
Does anyone else love sticking in a brand new game and going online? Playing against opponents who are in the same predicament and seeing how you compare as a new guy to other new guys? This might not apply to everyone, but I'm sure it applies to a few other people as well as myself. And a beta can ruin this feeling of 'new 'n shiny'.  After all, if a beta allows you to experience the online, even just a portion if it, you have an idea of how it will play normally. This can spoil a lot of the experience, as if you know what you're unlocking, and how it plays, then there is a lot lost from the game. Getting to grips is just as fun as owning, I think. Owing to the fact that other gamers will have had the experience for longer, they are going to be better. Therefore, they'll know more about how the game will play out. They'll know where the vehicles spawn. They'll know where the power weapons are sitting. And they'll know how to kill you, better than you know how to kill them. While being dominated in a full game is not fun either, it is actually the full game, and will therefore mean that the other player has been experienced for a considerable amount of time more than you would be. However, a beta is not around for a considerable amount of time. Most betas are open weeks, maybe a month or two. So getting dominated in the beta can really make you wonder if you want the full game or not. 
 
I suppose I might as well explain my reasoning for thinking of this blog myself. I was playing Bad Company 2, and other players were being dominated. So naturally I looked at the leaderboards to discover among the highest ranks on their team was a Rank 9. And therefore, my team had more experience, and were generally more prepared. While it is the job of the lower ranks to get better, I couldn't help but think to myself: did the Beta make any changes to my experience of the game? And yes, it definitely did. I played the 360 beta for much of the time it was available, and as such, I knew most of the map better than other players who did not try the beta. So if a beta carries a popular map from the full game it will most certainly mean a non-beta owner has something of a disadvantage to a beta owner. 
 
However, at the same time: a beta can make the game more pleasurable for a non-beta owner. The beta allows the company to improve their game, and make everything feel better. It can fix glitches and exploits. It can prevent something from being overpowered or underpowered. In short, whether a beta improves a game or ruins the feeling of it, depends on the publisher, and how or whether something is dealt with.
 

Developers

Developers can really enjoy having a beta. It allows the developers to take notes of how the game is experienced in regular gameplay, and not in a closed testing environment. The beta allows the developer to come right down to the community and take note of how they want the game. After all, the community is what the profit is all balanced on. Betas allow developers to play with other members of their community, and fix flaws in their creation. However, at the same time: not all developers change things. In some cases a beta is almost simply a preview of the full thing, rather than a testing bed of the full thing. Some betas allow fans to help and improve the game, and they can also do nothing. I shall show what I mean between developers and gamers, using the MP40 from World at War, which many considered overpowered:
 
Pros of Beta: Developers were able to spot the flaw in the MP40 and other areas of the gameplay. They were able to explore flaws the community had found in the game and try to make a difference to them. 
 
Cons of Beta: When the game fully launched many players picked up the same crutch they used through the Beta. And again, this can disappoint and frustrate gamers as was mentioned above. The low ranks would be having a jolly time with their Gewehr 43 or other early unlock, and then boom. Someone with one of the 'overpowered' weapons, which they knew of from the beta, could have a much more enjoyable time due to this fact than someone who mightn't even have known the name of the killer's gun.
 
In short, a beta in this situation can aggravate the community by giving some members more of an idea what to do in the full game, and they can also potentially prevent the full game turning out in the same manner.
 

Conclusion

Beta quality compared to full game quality is all based on the opinion of the gamer. Personally I enjoy getting a beta as it is a free opportunity to see what a game is like, if anything. At the same time though, everyone's opinion will probably vary on this subject. And therefore, please comment with your opinion on this blog, your view on betas, and anything I can do to improve my blogging skills. 
 
Another thing: I'm not sure if this should be a blog or a forum topic. I went down the blog route seeing as it seemed more like something I'd read in a blog online.
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