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Closed Beta? Open Beta? What It All Means

With so many free to play MMORPGs launching lately, I’ve seen a lot of people asking “What does closed beta mean?” or “What does open beta mean?”. I figured I’d throw up a quick guide here to explain all the “terminology” regarding the development stages of MMOs. The terms below are not exclusive to MMORPG games. Every piece of software can go through beta stages, but the descriptions below will talk about the terms and stages of development in relation to MMORPGs.
Alpha Testing or just Alpha – Alpha testing is an early stage of testing of a game. It’s usually done after a game just finishes being developed. It’s very common for games to be unstable in this stage, as the purpose of alpha testing is to iron out the “obvious” bugs and glitches. Developers usually conduct Alpha testing internally, meaning gamers will not get a chance to try the game out. Game developers do this because they don’t want people seeing the game until its further developed.
What Does Closed Beta Mean? Screenshot

GodsWar from IGG Began Alpha Testing in November, 2008.

Closed Beta or Close Beta – This stage of testing usually comes right after all the problems discovered in Alpha testing are fixed. The length of closed beta testing really varies from game to game. Some games go through numerous stages of closed beta testing titled “Closed Beta 2”, “Closed Beta 3”, “Closed Beta 4” and so on. As the name implies, this stage of testing is still “closed” from the public, but is much more extensive than Alpha Testing. Gamers can usually “apply” for Closed Beta testing, as developers want gamers to “try out” their game and report any newly discovered bugs to them. There’s no way all of a game’s issues can be discovered in Alpha testing, as only a handful of people are trying out the game and looking for bugs. Closed beta on the other hand, is usually open to many more people. Sometimes hundreds sometimes thousands. Since this is a non-public beta test, most of the time characters created during closed beta will be wiped. This means all characters will be deleted when closed beta testing ends. This is not always the case, but is the norm.
What Does Closed Beta Mean? Screenshot

Battle of the Immortals Closed Beta began in April and Ended in Early May.

Open Beta – For all intents and purposes, Open Beta means the MMORPG / MMO is released and available to the public. Anyone can register and download the game. In 95%+ of cases, there aren’t any more “character wipes” after open beta, so if you create your character in open beta, you will most likely still have it after the game fully launches. Open Beta is still considering beta testing, but almost all of the bugs / problems with the game have already been worked out. Developers usually focus on enhancing the game by adding new features during open beta rather than fixing bugs, but users are still encourage to submit any bugs they discover during Open Beta.
Commercial Release – The game is fully released and is no longer in any testing stages. Developers focus on expanding the game’s features and content instead of hunting for bugs to fix. Like in open beta, anyone can register and begin playing the game right away.
What Does Closed Beta Mean? Screenshot

After 3 Months of open beta testing, Runes of Magic officially released on March 19, 2009.

Hopefully this short guide should answer any questions people might have had about the topic. If I left anything out, feel free to add it in the comments below.
By Omer Altay

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