Demand to get into the beta has been incredible - with less than 3000 places currently available to the baying public, and over 80,000 having registered an interest in testing, you could almost envisage seeing places popping up on eBay!
However, in my opinion, SI have targeted a wide audience - not just the hardcore FM gamer who's going to take it extremely seriously, but the casual gamer, to which the game is also being targeted at. This diverse mix of people come with different approaches and levels of competency as well, so the test gives a truer reflection of an anticipated retail userbase.
So, roughly speaking - SI send out a load of emails (Duffy's fingers must've just about worn off by now, all that emailing), people reply and get the hallowed download link.
This is the first hurdle - there are only so many spaces, so there can only be so many given the link... And having got this far, there are a sizeable number who don't respond, or who do download the client, sign up in the game, but then never sign in!
Of those who do sign in, some get lost during the setup processes; there's a lot going on when you first sign in, and if you don't have any background knowledge it can be daunting, of course - SI are really targeting this for improvement, and in-game help will really be a massive boost. Also, there are now a few handy wizards that a new user gets presented with which guide them through.
One thing I tried was to implement some FAQ/help sheets using the in game voting system - I didn't start the votes, so people could only see the description text and the vote options (which were links to other parts of the FAQ. A limit of 1000 characters for the description text kept things concise, and when a new user signed up I would email them the link to the FAQ and tips on where to find help - this approach increased the user retention rate by around 50%.
So why do people drop out? Is the game that bad? Well, no, not at all - there are many reasons:
- Some are not technically able enough to get the client running; we're talking about people who don't know what a zip file is here. Beta testing unfortunately is slightly more complicated than normal gaming, though SI have really got this nailed now with things much simpler than they used to be.
- Some don't 'get' the game. We see a few who come in wanting to be Liverpool. If we explain the concept of the game, they soon get it and stick around, but us mods can't catch everyone for a chat.
- Some don't like online games, or talking/losing to real people
- Many people don't like losing - this isn't FM08, you can't replay games, you can't cheat, someone has to be ranked 897th. The key to that is to be playing teams at your level, which is perfectly achieveable. And don't take it too seriously... there can only be one No. 1 rank at a time! It's like signing up to World of Warcraft and expecting to be Level 60 straight away.
- Some think it's a demo, or treat it as such anyway. Come in, have a look around and leave again.
I'd also assume that once people are paying the monthly subscription for the game - and I will certainly be amongst them - they will get round most of the issues above. If you're paying, you'll look for help, you'll probably be aware of the basic concepts of the game, the client install will be smoother... you get the picture. Inactivity won't be an issue come retail.