Darren made a nice plea over at his site for bloggers to get into the WAR beta, or at the very least Keen. I support that (both the bloggers part and the Keen part), and can’t really come up with a great reason to keep bloggers out.
One reason that does come up whenever the whole ‘are bloggers press’ issue comes up is that the company does not want negative publicity about a game still in beta. Just like certain companies refuse to send PCGamer or other magazines pre-release copies of their games for review, some people think MMO developers apply the same reasoning to bloggers. The reason I have trouble accepting this is that MMO blogs reach a relatively small audience, and a very hardcore one at that. Regardless of your play style or game time per week, anyone who goes out and finds an MMO blog has long since crossed the threshold of casual and into hardcore status. True casual players are not even aware of official forums, let alone fan sites or blogs.
But let’s assume a developer wants to grab even the small hardcore population that does read blogs and listens to podcasts, is keeping the bloggers themselves out going to help? For one thing, bloggers tend to be a close knit community that respect each others opinion (for the most part), and take what is said into consideration. Unlike when I read a PCGamer preview and take everything said with a grain of salt, if I read something positive on a blog that I respect I take it as truth. When I read that Tabula Rasa ‘turned a corner’ and was actually fun, it put the game on my list. Based almost exclusively on Tipa’s writing, I went out and bought two copies of EQ2 to give it a try. Sure it did not work out, but it was two copies and three months of subs I would have never bought had it not been for her blog. On the other hand, while I was in the PotBS beta, my decision to see what the game was like in release was put on hold based on Keen’s PvP write ups, showing me that game was not yet ready for prime time. Of course, if in two months Keen makes a post saying all is well and PvP in Pirates is a blast, that could sway my opinion right back.
My point is that while bloggers do influence buying decisions among our small community, they do so with honesty. No one here gets paid to write glowing reviews or previews. If you have a solid product, bloggers will write that. If your game has issues, we will write that as well. Ultimately it comes down to the buyer; it just so happens bloggers and our readers tend to be better informed than the average gamer, able to see past the bullet point fluff and analyze the details. If everything checks out, you get our money. If you have some skeletons that you tried to hide, you likely won’t see many of us subscribe until you straighten those issues out.