When the IGN beta event finally began on Thursday, thousands of excited gamers ended up more frustrated than entertained. The experience has been marred by low framerates, stuttering, and frequent hard crashes. Admittedly, it's a beta; some of that is to be expected. But it's bad, and since the game's retail release is less than three weeks away, there's an air of concern that Age of Conan will hit retail in an unplayable state. The reality is more complex than that.
According to a moderator's post on Funcom's official forums, the client used by open beta participants predates even the one used in the PvP event two weeks ago. MMO bloggers Keen and Bildo both wrote that their experiences in the closed beta have been drastically better. Bildo wrote that most of the issues in the open beta client "have been squashed" and that the game is "ready to hit the store shelves soon."
That's a relief. But why would Funcom use an older client? A beta is a practical endeavor, and Funcom may have had its technical reasons, but as Keen pointed out: you only get one first impression and Funcom might have blown it. This open beta has clearly been a marketing move as much as it's been a technical test; its artwork has dominated Fileplanet's front page for weeks. So what gives? Will this hurt retail sales? We'll see in a few weeks.