A while back I wrote an article about the Attraction-Selection-Attrition model that I thought could explain why gamers choose what guild, clan, or message board community that they do. You can read the article for the details, but the gist of it is that people…
- Are attracted to organizations that share their values
- Are selected by organizational membership gatekeepers based on how well their values match the organizational culture
- Leave organizations over time as their values become (or are revealed to be) out of synch with the organizational culture
Founders, early members, and leaders have a disproportionate impact on defining values, which we call the “organizational culture.”
Recently we’ve been hearing an awful lot about two high profile closed game betas: StarCraft II and Halo Reach. It occurred to me that the ASA model of organizational choice could actually be applied to explain what kinds of people are attracted to closed betas and what lasting effects they have on player bases.
First, people who like the game series and the subculture around it are attracted to the beta. These are probably going to be your most hardcore fans –people who gush enthusiasm for the game and everything that goes with it. Casual fans or non-fans are not likely to even be interested at this point without coaxing.
Second, those fans are willing to go through some pretty crazy hurdles to get selected for membership into that beta testing group. They’ll preorder your nutso collector’s edition. They’ll subscribe to services they don’t want just to get into the beta, or they’ll buy Halo ODST as much for the Reach beta code as the game. And we all heard those stories about early StarCraft II beta keys going for hundreds of dollars or more on places like eBay.
All along the way, the beta testers are defining the culture for the group by forming explicit or unstated but understood agreements about what kind of behavior is allowed, encouraged, or unwanted. If everyone in the Halo Reach beta is foul-mouthed and hyper-competitive how much of that do you think is due to those shared expectations formed by early adopters eager to get selected into those ranks? ((Answer: quite a bit, though it’s worth noting that it’s also a carry-over from the previous games.))
The third piece of the model is admittedly a little sketchy, as the beta group doesn’t really experience attrition of these fans in the same way that employers have employee turnover. If a beta opens up to the public or a game goes retail the hardcore beta tester groups aren’t likely to leave ((Unless they think the game isn’t worth paying for, but that’s another issue)) but there MAY very well be tension between the old beta testers and the new “scrubs” that flood the game. And beta testers may try to create their own sub-groups and isolate themselves in their own sub-culture.
Anyone have personal experience with this kind of thing?