So what gives? Why did Funcom choose a buggier version to release to the 50,000 new faces? Not exactly a great way to start a game, and Rick over at /Random agrees. We all know that Age of Conan has the gameplay to be a winner, but you can't see the juicy goodness if you can't run it for longer than 12 seconds.
Rick's theory here is that it all comes down to communication. Giving us a client that was a couple versions behind would be acceptable if we had known about it and were informed that this client was, in fact, worse. Communicating to us a game plan for the open beta and telling us why they chose this particular client would have solved countless issues.
To add to Rick's article, I think another very salient wound would be the fact that it was a FilePlanet subscriber beta. If you wanted guaranteed access, you needed to pay five bucks to IGN to get access to FilePlanet. It was pumped up, it was glorified, and it was elevated above all other games and open betas. To give paying customers (yes five bucks is a paying customer) anything less than the best client was a disastrous mistake.
I'll throw another argument in here -- why not just run it like every other open beta? Keep it mildly downplayed, let testers come in and do their jobs with the stress test, and then begin to fire the marketing cannons afterwards? Once again, another great way to avoid getting egg on your face and simultaneously avoid re-inventing the marketing wheel.
At the end of the day, a lot of people say that any press is good press. However, in the world of game design, I respectfully disagree.