Nintendo is, for the first time ever, holding an open beta for a game pre-release. It isn’t a proper beta (in that feedback from players won’t influence the development of the game going forward, since it is, you know, pretty much finished and ready for release), but it is a server stress test, to see how high volumes might impact playability of the game. Given Nintendo’s documented troubles with getting online play right, I would say this is a good move for them.
You can download the client for the game from the eShop right now, but you won’t be able to play it yet. You have to wait for the game to go live first, which… happens at all sorts of odd times, to be honest. The schedule for when the game will be going live is:
North America Schedule:
May 8 from 8:00 – 9:00 PM PT (11:00 – Midnight ET)
May 9 from 4:00 – 5:00 AM PT (7:00 – 8:00 AM ET)
May 9 from Noon to 1 PM PT (3:00 – 4:00 PM ET)
European Schedule (UK time):
May 9 from 04:00 – 05:00
May 9 from 12:00 – 13:00
May 9 from 20:00 – 21:00
Saturday May 9th – 13:00-14:00
Saturday May 9th – 21:00-22:00
Sunday May 10th – 05:00-06:00
The only mode playable will be 4v4 Turf Wars, but it should be enough to get a feel for how the game plays, at the very least, and deciding whether or not you want to buy it.
Splatoon launches exclusively on the Wii U on May 29.