Do You REALLY Need 100M beta testers???

Testing a game before shipping is certainly an essential part of the development process.  And the more folks that test it, the more bugs they’ll find, which makes for a better quality game at launch.  But is it really fair to call Cityville, now approaching 100M monthly active users, a beta?  I know it’s still relatively new, but come on, that’s more players than all the other games combined!  {only slight exaggeration}  So why is Zynga still calling it a “beta?”

I can imagine the internal discussions going something like this:

  • Development – Dude, we just compiled the code and have no idea what will work and what won’t, it’s definitely beta, more like alpha
  • Marketing – Dude, we can generate a lot more buzz and early adopters by calling it a beta.  That makes everyone, even the 100 millionth user, feel like they’re a cool early adopter
  • Legal – Dude, folks are paying us a lot of money, and if the game economics are still in flux, we don’t want anyone to sue us if we wipe out their initial investment. 
  • Execs – Dude, maybe if all the other game execs don’t think we’ve launched yet, they won’t notice that we’ve already cornered the market on all the gamers

Whatever the reason, it’s working.  Because the upside to all this testing is the data and learning that Zynga is gaining at an accelerated rate.  And it shows in the usage stats .      It’s a launch and learn world now, so everybody better start launching.  And if slapping the beta label on it makes you feel better about launching something that doesn’t meet your traditional high standards,  feel free.