We felt a great disturbance in the Force yesterday. It was as if millions of BioWare fans suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. But what caused this terror? People with accounts on BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic forums thought they had missed out on a chance to take part in the SWTOR beta test. The resulting flood of people took to the community forums which, subsequently, became temporarily unavailable due to the heavy server load.
Apparently, the emails that were sent out by BioWare and EA were originally bound for a small group of game testers as part of on-going market research, but someone must have sent the emails to the wrong list. As a result, scores of players not involved in the beta or game testing in any way received an email first asking them to fill out a survey regarding their Star Wars: The Old Republic beta testing experience, followed up by a second reminding people to pre-order the game. Given everything that happened following this the executive offices at BioWare must have felt like the Death Star.
BioWare’s PR and Community Management teams have been hard at work trying to perform some kind of damage control. Yesterday evening, Allison Berryman, Senior Community Coordinator, stated that the team was aware that emails had been sent in error. About 3 hours later, Berryman issued the following statement via the forums:
Earlier today, two e-mails were sent to members of the Star Wars: The Old Republic community. These e-mails were sent to a larger group than intended, and have caused some confusion in the community. We can confirm that these e-mails were from EA and BioWare and apologize for any confusion they have caused. Please note that receiving these e-mails does not affect your chances to be invited to test the game. Thank you all for your understanding!
Of course this didn’t completely answer the questions of many of the recipients of the emails. This morning, an addendum to Berryman’s statement was made by Stephen Reid, Senior Online Community Manager, answering a few more questions in detail. For one, Reid states that the emails do not indicate eligiability for game testing. The only way to get into a potential beta test is to sign up for it and wait to get selected. He also emphasizes that receiving these emails does not preclude anyone from being invited into the beta in the future provided they have already signed-up or are not already testing the game.
The fan reaction to the emails has been mixed with responses ranging from angry to sarcastic. In fact, the thread started by user Lorina has reached a length of over 500 pages of replies as of the time of this post. Here’s a small taste of some of the best of the thread starters on the topic, as selected by Ripten (usernames are in bold):
I’ve been opted in for beta testing since they first announced the kinect. I remember the day well. How could you be so foolish as to send an email like that out. That is sick and cruel. I’m growing more and more upset with you Bioware. Give me a freaking beta invite already. It’s been so many years…. this is stupid!
I’d like to either congratulate Bioware for a successful troll or give my commiserations to the employee who is currently getting chewed out for an incredible fail.
Great marketing hype by the company. Stephen Reid and his team have very unorothodox but smart PR strategies.
The most obvious question people are now asking is when is the beta for SWTOR going to happen? Reid states that the next beta weekend is being planned and, given that BioWare has confirmed the release date as December, it’s not a foregone conclusion to think that a beta will probably happen soon. Then again, perhaps, the more pressing concern would be if BioWare is adequately equipped to handle the high volume of traffic a game like SWTOR will, no doubt, attract.
If something as harmless as two emails being sent to the wrong user list could nearly crash the site’s forums it makes one wonder about how ready BioWare is for a beta let alone an end of year release. Indeed, BioWare has been staffing up in preparation, but will it be enough? More importantly, will people stick around to see the latest premium MMO in town when many have gone free to play? Let us know what you think in the comments.
BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic will invade our galaxy on December 20th for the PC.
Follow me on Twitter @VivasKaul