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How Bungie Did Their Destiny Beta

November 26, 2014

Now that the hype has died and players have been able to log some serious hours into the first entry of Bungie’s next generation title Destiny, it’s not hard to find some critical articles about how the game hacks human behaviour to create habit inducing feedback loops.

Recently I was reminded of the Destiny beta when I was putting together a landing page for a new product that included some email capture and a call to action to submit contact info to get access to the app. Something that stood out to me was how Destiny productized their beta and leveraged excitement in order to gain massive support for their alpha and beta testing.

As an app developer it’s not uncommon to design and build enticing landing pages that are meant to generate and gauge initial interest in a product. “Sign up now for exclusive access to the beta” is something we’ve all probably encountered stumbling across a touchpoint of a new useful app. Exclusive is good, but part of why Destiny received 700k preorders was because they promised early access to their game through a week long beta test.

A beta is an opportunity for companies to test their product with real life users before the product’s official launch. Betas are used to test whether or not certain features are important, make sure the server architecture can support a high volume of users, track user behavior and test the overall user experience. Initiating a beta isn’t as simple as turning on the app and monitoring analytics. Successful betas are planned for, user groups are secured, and functionality is in place and ready to go.

No matter how unique the product is or powerful the computational algorithms and doo-dads are behind the scenes, a beta test will fail if no one comes to the party.

Here are some takeaways from the Destiny beta:

Reward Users

Preorders for the game were available almost a year before the game launched and offered gamers some “exclusive content.” As someone who often can’t plan ahead and commit to anything more than a few hours in advance getting promised a reward for preordering the game sounded pretty good. And it’s exclusive? Count me in.

Keep interest

During E3, eager Playstation gamers got a surprise, “exclusive” (there’s that word again) access to a pre beta alpha test! All that was required was to sign up on Bungie’s website before a specific date and you got in! All this exclusivity!

Don’t make it feel like a test

Checking various forums during the actual beta that took place in August was interesting. The discussion that was happening indicated that most gamers perceived the beta as some kind of entitlement, it seemed as though they were completely unaware that this was a test for Bungie to make sure their servers could handle millions of people and to gauge whether or not people were having fun.

Make your beta a product, not a list, not a newsletter. Make it something that is fun and useful, something that can be experienced, something to be a part of. Bungie’s Destiny beta was so successful they ended up extending the beta longer than planned. Users who took part in a stress load test were given a badge of honor for participating and can still be found roaming the in-game galaxy with it adorned on their armor.

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