Soft Launch vs Beta vs Early Access

Soft launch vs early acess vs open beta

This article is intended to clear up some questions gamers have about Android games that are in their soft launch phase. It looks at the soft launch, open beta, and closed beta phases, as well as the early access designation.

Closed Beta

Closed beta is typically a testing phase that requires an invitation. It comes prior to the open beta, and typically does not coincide with a soft launch. Some developers use “closed beta” as a way of emphasizing that a game is still is still in its testing phase, even though their closed beta test is open to the public.

Open Beta

Open beta is a testing phase that occurs near a game’s launch window. It’s often used to test servers, find any lingering bugs, and get a bit of buzz going about a game before the global launch. Open beta is typically open to the public, but is sometimes only available in select countries. It is often handled in the same way as a soft launch.

Soft Launch

Soft launch is a final pre-release phase that is designed to make sure everything works correctly prior to the global launch. Soft launches are open to select countries, and in some cases expand over time leading up to launch. The reason that some developers and publishers choose to go with a soft launch instead of a global launch is that it allows them to make sure that everything is running smoothly and major bugs are taken care of. Soft launches also allow developers to gather data and feedback from gamers in order to help determine what they can improve. Gamers in countries that are a part of a soft launch might never know it as soft launch games are rarely labelled as such.

The countries most often chosen for the soft launches are Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Scandinavian countries, and parts of Southeast Asia. These countries are popular because they are looked at as analogs to larger markets like the United States, and EU nations, but are small enough that the influx of players will be manageable. Popular games that have had (or are having) a soft launch include South Park: Phone Destroyer, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, Capcom’s Puzzle Fighter, and Sonic Forces: Speed Battle. Games that are in soft launch will sometimes have pre-registration available for other regions. Click here to learn more about pre-registration.

Early Access

Early access is a Google Play designation for games that are labeled as “unreleased” but are available to the public. Early access titles are sometimes only available in select region, and are often classified as being in beta by developers. Anyone trying out a game that falls under any category listed here should expect bugs and balance issues, this is especially true for early access games.

Should gamers try games that are in soft launch, open beta, or early access?

The answer is always going to be subjective. It will depend on the person and the game. If you want to be the person that plays the latest games, then sure, go for it. Just be aware that games that are just starting out are more likely to have bugs and balance issues. That’s not always the case, and quite often soft launches are done for games that are getting a global release but have already been available in their home country for some time. One of the advantages of being a part of a game’s testing phase is that you get a chance to have a real impact on how the game develops by submitting feedback and bug reports. Those who are more interested in how they benefit, participating in a soft launch can give players an advantage once a game goes live.

What gamers really need to know

These categories are not set in stone. Some games have extremely smooth early access releases while others have very rough open betas or soft launches. Some developers open a game to the public while still labeling it as closed beta. Some soft launches last for months, others days. Digimon Links had what appeared to be a soft launch in Australia and came out globally a day later. Some early access titles might never see a full release, others can go on to become extremely successful. It is never a good idea to jump to conclusions about a game based on its release phase, its phase can be one indicator about state of the game.

The most important thing to know about a game that has not had its global launch is whether or not it will have a data wipe. Some developers make the decision to reset player progress prior to the game’s global launch to ensure that everyone starts on an even playing field, that’s the case with Durango: Wild Lands. While not very common, it is something gamers need to be aware of in order to avoid an unpleasant surprise. A good rule of thumb is that if a game lets players use in app purchases, progress will not be reset. However, this is just one thing to look at, and gamers should check out a game’s social media page, forums, or contact the developer to find out about the possibility of a reset.