As you can see below, we're really looking forward to Warhammer Online. We've been playing it lots already, and our impression is that it's the first MMO to take a step in front of WoW. That's a big deal. We're just a bit concerned by the current state of affairs when it comes to EU distribution. As we've covered quite heavily, there's the internal confusion at GOA over UK pricing, and now there's a further concern: the open beta. Right now, at least two online retailers - one of them EA itself - are selling pre-orders of the game with the promise that a purchase will mean access to the open beta. GOA are stating that this is categorically not the case, and that the 55,000 beta invites will be distribute by other, rather unclear means. What is going on?
Go to the front page of EA's UK store and you're greeted with this sizeable banner front and centre:
It's not subtle. A very clear statement that spending your £40 (pre-orders via GAME currently cost £30, but don't offer beta access... but as we're about to discover, that might be pretty irrelevant) on the direct download will secure you open beta access.
Head to the game's page on the EA Store and the details state:
"INCLUDES: OPEN BETA ACCESS - LIVE GAME HEADSTART
30 Day Free Subscription - Bonus Item Unlocks"
Wanting to save some on that digi download, you could head to Direct2Drive, who have the pre-order at £33, listing the benefits for pre-ordering as including:
# OPEN UK BETA ACCESS
This product give you access to the UK Open Beta. Be one of the first players to experience the glory of battle and the thrill of WAR! - You will not receive access to the US Open Beta.
# LIVE GAME HEAD START
Begin your adventures in the Age of Reckoning several days before the raw recruits arrive!
So why, on the semi-official Warhammer forum that GOA's community team frequents, is this statement made by English WAR Community Manager, Magnus K? (And why doesn't the game have an official forum?)
Magnus, from your last post I gather that EU se pre-orders will be missing out on the open beta, is that correct and if so why?
This is true, and is according to the plan. All along, Open Beta has been planned to include
* All current Beta testers
* Collector's Edition Pre-Order customers
* Partner website invites
* Random invites and others
So whereas Standard Edition Pre-Order customers will gain access to the Live Head Start, they will not automatically gain access to the Open Beta. The primary reason for this is that the European market is more diverse and complex than its North American counterpart. By choosing to distribute the quite substantial number of spots we have allocated for Open Beta via partner websites programmes, we are able to tailor-suit invitations to a higher extent than we would be able to, were we to do as the Americans. More on all of this as we approach Open Beta, naturally.
To be clear, neither the EA Store nor D2D versions are the Collector's Edition. It simply cannot be, as it's a digital download, and therefore would be hard-pushed to fit a metal miniature, graphic novel, and book of artwork down even the phattest of pipes.
Later in the thread Magnus K reiterates the point:
Will EU SE pre-order customers get into WAR Open Beta?
No. This was a solution well suited for the American market, but less so Europe. With more diverse demographics, we have opted for a solution where we will be giving away 55 000 Open Beta keys through the EA Store and other community sites. This allow for a more focused approach, better suited the five-language market we operate in.
Perhaps this statement means something to GOA, but I'm entirely bemused. How in the shiny kingdoms of the Earth does people's pre-ordering a game they want to play, on the promise of open beta access, form an inappropriate model for open beta key distribution? How can multiple languages possibly factor into this? Oh, and through what did he say? The EA Store? The one that's selling the game with the promise of open beta access? This more "focused approach" remains a mystery. But more than anything, and oh my goodness how is this allowed to happen, the game is being sold for pre-order based on a promise GOA are openly stating they will not meet.
We have, of course, approached GOA to try and get answers to this question. With a bank holiday on Monday, we're not expecting to hear back before Tuesday. (Although we've still not heard back about why they publically announced that the prices they told us had not come from them).
But the madness doesn't end there. Because as we speak, the US are in the midst of a free Warhammer Online Preview Weekend. This is the denouement to the closed beta, a 100,000 player invite-only session to test the full-on RvR full scale battles. The invites were sent to closed beta players, people who had pre-ordered the Collector's Edition, and to 50,000 Standard Edition pre-orderers. What an excellent fun time! When's the European one?!
Will there be a European Preview Weekend?
No. When the Preview Weekend was announced we were frankly caught by the bed. Our schedule leading up to Open Beta and Launch have included large scale testing all along, and a Preview Weekend event of sorts was never part of this plan. In the end, making such large scale changes with such short notice proved unrealistic.
I'm sorry, what?
Whatever is going on, it really isn't pretty. That GOA are so openly stating they haven't got a clue what's happening with the US distribution of the same game is quite astonishing. A situation has somehow arisen where the US publishers, EA, are clearly not communicating with the EU publishers, GOA. This is in no way good news for anyone. Please, someone sort this out, sharpish.
Enormous thanks to Torn, of fort-awesome.eu for tips.