Betawatch: January 18 - 24, 2014

Hovering like some vast, predatory... nah, not going there.
If you're 17 and wanted to play The Elder Scrolls Online, bad news: The game will be shipping with a Mature rating. So if you buy your games from the one store in the United States that actually checks the ratings and your age, you'll be out of luck. You can also take a look at the game's latest preview video on group content.

Hearthstone entered into its open beta, although its functioning cash shop since closed beta puts it directly into the "soft launched" category for reasons discussed in last week's Betawatch. Star Wars: Attack Squadrons has also entered a second phase of closed testing for those who can't get enough dogfighting but don't want to play Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Oh, and there's the usual list of betas and our Testing Notes just past the break. Like always, feel free to let us know in the comments if something slipped into open testing or the like without our catching it!

Open testing phase
Massively considers a game to be in open testing if it has open, public signups and plans for a server wipe before its official launch. Self-described "open beta" MMOs that have soft-launched with functioning real-money cash shops will not be listed.

Blood and Jade (R2Games): Announcement, Signup
Inferno Legend (Changyou): Announcement, Signup
Margonem (Garmory): Signup
Project Gorgon (Project Gorgon): Signup
Sevencore (Ignited Games): Announcement, Signup
SmashMuck Champions (Kis Studios): Announcement, Signup, /r/ (early access on Steam now)
Taikodom (Gamersfirst): Announcement, Signup
UFO Online (gamigo): Announcement, Signup

Closed testing phase
We consider an MMO to be in closed testing if it features either future test signups or an ongoing semi-private beta/alpha that cannot immediately and freely be accessed by the general public. Some are restricted by NDAs. This still qualifies even if the test does feature an active cash shop so long as the signups are restricted; it also qualifies if the testing is limited to purchasers.

DayZ (Bohemia Interactive): Announcement, Signup (access is for early purchasers on Steam)
Earthrise: First Impact (SilentFuture): Announcement, Signup
Elite: Dangerous (Frontier): Announcement, Early Access Purchase
End of Nations (Trion): Announcement, Signup, /r/
Infinite Crisis (Turbine): Announcement, Signup
League of Angels (GTArcade): Announcement, Signup
LEGO Minifigures Online (Funcom): Announcement, Signup (launching summer 2014)
Lime Odyssey (Aeria Games): Announcement, Signup
Line of Defense (3000AD): Announcement, Signup
MU Rebirth (Webzen): Announcement, Signup
Origins of Malu (Burning Dog): Announcement
Starlite (Project Whitecard): Announcement, Signup (fka Astronaut: Moon, Mars, and Beyond)
Strife (S2 Games): Announcement, Signup
The Elder Scrolls Online (Zenimax): Announcement, Signup
The Repopulation (Above and Beyond): Announcement, Signup, /r/
TUG (Nerd Kingdom): Announcement, Signup
Venus Rising (FoxySoft): Announcement (fka Orgia Romanus; adult MMO, possibly NSFW)
WildStar (Carbine/NCsoft): Announcement, Signup

Testing Notes
Deciding what is and is not an MMO comes down to a lot of fine details. It's expected that most of the people who read this column probably dislike pretty much any game on Facebook, but let's be fair -- most of those games have a persistent environment shaped by the actions of you and fellow players and certainly have social features integrated. By the right definition, you could argue that FarmVille is an MMO.

No, we're not going to argue that. The point is that there are a lot of games that fall into the pseudo-MMO category. Games like Hearthstone and World of Tanks are obvious entries, as is more or less every single MOBA game. League of Legends is decidedly not an MMO, but there's a lot of audience overlap with MMOs, and what it does has a definite impact on the space shared by other online offerings.

So we have an interesting situation. On the one hand, these games are not MMOs. On the other hand, they're relevant to the MMO genre. Massively, obviously, has erred on the side of touching upon these games even if they aren't our main focus; Not So Massively is both a column title and an acknowledgement that these titles are on the fringe but still worth talking about in a larger context.

But this isn't a feature just about the blurring lines between genres; it's about betas. And while we list some games on the fringe, we don't list all of them. Why?

One word: relevance.

Whether you like Blizzard or not is immaterial; you can't deny that the company has a huge impact on the online sphere with its various games. Diablo III is at the nexus of several similar games with varying degrees of online functionality, from Path of Exile to Marvel Heroes to Torchlight 2. For that matter, Torchlight 2 is still rumored to at some point lead into an online... well, something. Pretty relevant to any present discussions.

Unlike our criteria for whether a game is in beta or has launched, this one is far less cut-and-dried. We're constantly evaluating titles on the fringe and deciding whether or not they're worth covering in here; there are titles we mention in the opening paragraph but don't list as ongoing betas, for example. But if you're wondering why something isn't on there, that's usually the reason.

As always, we're interested in hearing your opinions down in the comments. Next week, let's answer a question that also seems relevant -- why don't we know when a game has a cash shop, switches phases, and the like?

Betawatch is Massively's weekly report on the latest MMO alphas, betas, and other games still meandering toward an official launch. From ArcheAge to World of Warplanes, it's covered here, complete with sign-up links so that you too can perform the unpaid quality-control work otherwise known as game testing. Drop us a comment if we've missed one, and many thanks to Steven Eyerman for the Subreddit links!

This article was originally published on Massively.