So very recently I got into the SMITE Beta and one of the main FAQ sections states there is no Non Disclosure Agreement for the game, itís not a great game by the way at least in my opinion. At the moment Iím also in two other BETAs but they are under so much NDA in the agreement I had to sign to get in it says Iím not even allowed to mention being in them even if there may have been close to a slip thanks to Angry Joe
So having had this discovery I decided to write this article on NDA culture and why far from helping the game itís harming companies games.
Iíve done my fair share of beta testing over the years starting mainly with Red Faction Guerrilla on xbox 360 (yes it had a Beta) and so many do seem to come with their own little NDA of some description. Now the question must be why ?
There are two viable answers to the question why.
Firstly they are worried about some kind of industrial espionage with someone stealing their ideas before release, however the stupid point here is with anyone able to sign up for the beta it wouldnít be hard for a rival to slip a few people in anyway.
The second and more worrying answer is simply control. Publishers are worried that youíll show off problems in their game like some flasher going in public and displaying his less than appealing bits to the public. Companies want to control and have their game shown as a great game with no flaws, the obvious problem being no-one is buying that for an instant, every game will have problems and you know what, people like to see the problems in the Beta as from that point on the game can only get better. Companies donít seem to understand this and there seems to be a belief that a bad beta can kill the game if people find out about the issues, however like your first intimate encounter its often best not to big it up too much as if it is crap then thereís the huge let down and potential emotionally scarring moment/s after it. By having the beta bugs shown and people being able to laugh about some of the stupid moments people have their expectations lowered so the game to them can seem far better as the bugs they thought would be there have vanished.People will even go out of their way to play games if they see these kind of weird bugs because itís funny, itís something people enjoy, just look at how popular Just Cause 2 was.
dance my puppets and save us having to hire quality assurance people
While it might sounds like PR suicide to have a non NDAed Beta, itís also a huge PR jump because while you can become popular infamy gets the real attention. Just look at Anita Sarkeesian even that level of attention would push a game to a point where people will buy it just to see if itís that bad , Revelations 2012 anyone ?
If you don't know who this is then any video game series you like has never met him
While a Beta may not be the final product, being honest and for example saying Sony Online Entertainments ďBullet RunĒ will heavily gimps free to play people by having their weapons degrade and having to have them spend 90-95% of the money they get to fix their weapons leaving little to upgrade the weapons. And before I get a call from a Sony Online Entertainment legal representative allow me to say I never signed your NDA nor am I personally in the Beta I just happen to have knowledge of this and no I wonít tell you who blabbed. The question is how many people have even heard of the existence of bullet run until you read it here ?
Previously Iíve been able to talk about Brickforce on my main review blog [shameless plug alert] but it was encourage and at present Smite doesnít have an NDA meaning I can and probably will try to write something in that. Now I barely get hits but then again when you have an open beta with no NDAís you get however many people you let in blogging about it and giving your game attention. Essentially by having no NDA you get people to do some of the publicity for you, if you NDA all the publicity before the game is your own and more and more these days people will brush it off because they know you can doctor the thing to make it look better. People want to know the reality of things hence why shows like Totalbiscuits WTF are so popular. Iím sure out there many legitimate journalists (not calling TB non legitimate before I get ganked here) get annoyed by NDAs especially when the game is out and the NDA is still going on like happened with APB.
Our games bad so shut up and don't tell anyone
NDAs in gaming are the almost the last bastion of a bad company, be it the NDA that cuts out on release or NDAs that say in some you canít even discuss the beta at any point in an uncontrolled environment even after the full game is released. All NDAs ever tend to do now is not prevent other people stealing your idea but helping alienate your consumers. One thing thats become big in gaming is the gaming swag, the stature, the stuff youíve managed to get and being able to show off to others, its why stats have become so big. Yet Companies seemingly are missing the trick of letting gamers be able to brag and say for example ďYeh I got into the guild wars 2 beta ď suddenly all their gamers friends are hearing the name of a game and its being kept fresh in their minds.