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The question itself is fairly straight forward, but the answer takes a lot of industry insight.

To give an example scenario, I am playing a game that's in closed beta right now. They have about 5000 people invited and the game is only open from Fridays to Mondays. On average there are only about 200-400 players online at any given time, across EU and US. For a closed beta, this looks like a bit of a low turn-over if you ask me.

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2 Answers 2

It varies based on time of day. For example, you'd expect to see more people in the US online at 7pm than 3am. I've seen activity measured at 15-minute intervals throughout the day and then averaged throughout the week.

If you've got 5k invites and each person is online for 1 hour per day, randomly distributed, then you'd expect to see in the 200-300 player range at any given time of day. So really if you want to analyze the invite-to-active-player ratio you'd need more information:

  • Total number of beta keys used (that is, invitees who logged in at least once)?
  • Average amount of time spent per play session?
  • Average number of logins per day (or week) per account?

If you're just trying to ask instead, how many players to invite for beta... depends on whether your beta is more for bug-hunting purposes (keep it small and among trusted friends so you get good reports but you're not flooded with them), playtesting/balance purposes (mid-sized, large enough to get good playtest data but small enough that you don't generate too much bad press for your game if the players initially decide it sucks), or marketing purposes (bigger is better).

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When you're setting up any invite beta, you have to remember about geographic distribution. Even on a commerically launched online game like an MMO, the peak concurrency differs VERY heavily from average concurrency. If you want to get to a higher level of concurrency you may consider specifying specific "testing periods" during the day when things are open. You can do it with soft restrictions by just reminding people to play during certain time periods, or you can actually disable the servers during off times. This can help raise your max concurrency.

As for the ratio, I would say getting 5% of invitees to play at a time is a reasonably decent total. Many, many people will sign up for betas, play 5 minutes, and never play again. I would actually pick right around 5% as a ballpark for expected concurrency for a closed beta.

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Agreed: considering that a lot of people lose interest before they receive their invite, and everything else those 5000 people could be doing at any one time - including sleeping and working - having roughly 5% or more online at all times is actually quite good. –  Kylotan Aug 24 '10 at 9:38

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