Gamasutra caught up with well-known designer Richard Garriott at the Independent Games Conference held late last month in Austin, TX. During the event he was asked what lessons he took away from the marketing of Tabula Rasa; his response was a bluntly negative appraisal of their Beta test. Too many testers were added too early, in his opinion, which created a current of negative views in the community and soured a lot of potential players on the game.
The people who did participate in the beta, we've had to go back to and say 'look, look, we promise: we know it wasn't fun two months ago, but we fixed all that. Really, come try it again.' We've had to go out and develop free programs to invite those people back for free before they go buy it. So the beta process, which we used to think of as a QA process, is really a marketing process.
Massively, of course, was there as well. Check out Elizabeth Harper's great writeup of the keynote in full.