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How important are game demos to you?

Demo

I like demos. They give me a small taste of what I can expect from a game without having to shell out any cash. But sometimes, instead of leaving you wanting more,   they can create a false impression of game and turn you right off the prospect of purchasing. It seems demos do more harm than good – and games with demos end up selling worse than those marketed via trailer alone.


"You mean we spent all this money making a demo and getting it out there, and it cut our sales in half?" said Puzzle Clubhouse CEO and analyst Jesse Schell in a bit of hypothetical pantomime (via Eurogamer)  "Yes, that’s exactly what happened to you."

His claim is based on research on cumulative game sales on the 360, from EEDAR and other sources. That research says that games marketed without  a demo or a trailer sold less than 100,000 units on average; those with just a demo sold about 200,000, those with both a demo and a trailer managed around 250,000, and those that were only marketed with  a trailer sold half a million copies.

"People see the trailer and they’re like ‘that’s cool!’ and they made a plan. ‘I gotta try that game!’" said Schell. "And then when they play the demo [and they think] ‘alright I’ve tried that game. That was cool. I’m done.’ But the things with no demo, you’ve got to buy it if you want to try it."

I posit that that’s not quite the case; instead, I think bad games with demos fail to do well – while great games, demo or not will do just fine. But what do you think? Do you value demos, or are they more likely to get you to not buy games?

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Author:Geoffrey Tim

I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

  • Deon Steyn

    Demos are like a hot girl giving you a lap dance and leaving you having to wait a couple of months for the real thing. It’s nice but I prefer the whole enchilada.

    • Hondsepop

      No foreplay for you then.

      • Deon Steyn

        Lol That’s what one would call the intro to the game.

        • Brady miaau

          me, I just like woman. Well, by woman I mean my wife. And by wife I mean…

          So, games it is then :)

  • Admiral Chief Erwin

    I haven’t played a demo in almost a decade :-

    • CodeScarwls

      Same here.

      But back then, some demos where worth the play. Even if you had the full game. I remember with HL and HL Opposing Forces, the level in the demo were not in the full version.

      • Admiral Chief Erwin

        Precisely. It was worth it back then, part of the experience.

  • DieJason

    I’m not fussed over demos, only reviews. Even trailers don’t do anything for me

  • Purple_Dragon

    I remember buying magazines that CDs or DVD’s with demos on them. Bloody awesome.

    • FoxOneZA

      Bloody expensive too!

      • Brady miaau

        both right!

        I loved the demos. Now I have limited time and even more limited patience.

        And a little more money than back then, so I tend to buy on reviews.

      • Brady miaau

        both right!

        I loved the demos. Now I have limited time and even more limited patience.

        And a little more money than back then, so I tend to buy on reviews.

  • Darthdad

    I’m Kilroy! Kilroy! Kilroy! Kilroy…

    I enjoy demos, I don’t take them to seriously. They are more a guide of what to expect.

  • Hondsepop

    0%…the importance of demos to me. Rather go on experience and gut feel.

  • OVG

    RESIDENT EVIL 6 shame man, they actually thought it was so good that they gave us a free demo.

    I saved R599 :)

    • http://twitter.com/SaveTheQueenIX umar bastra

      LOL , me too, oh that demo was so krap…hmm that game turned out to be krap too.YAY for demos!

  • Blackhawk

    With demos now as large as the actual game, it’s getting quite ridiculous to “try before you buy”. I love demos in that they are a showcase of a small part of the complete game. I played the Xcom demo to see if the devs had captured the spirit of the original (which they did) and that swayed me as much as seeing a gameplay vid.

    I posit that gameplay vids are now the modern equivalent of demos. While you don’t have the tactile feel of a game, you can still pretty much see it in action and make a reasonably informed decision.

    • Hondsepop

      Gameplay Vids, if you go on them you are going to have a bad time “cough Diablo III cough*.

  • Blackhawk

    With demos now as large as the actual game, it’s getting quite ridiculous to “try before you buy”. I love demos in that they are a showcase of a small part of the complete game. I played the Xcom demo to see if the devs had captured the spirit of the original (which they did) and that swayed me as much as seeing a gameplay vid.

    I posit that gameplay vids are now the modern equivalent of demos. While you don’t have the tactile feel of a game, you can still pretty much see it in action and make a reasonably informed decision.

  • http://twitter.com/SaveTheQueenIX umar bastra

    saw the trailer for metal gear rising and thought “F**K that’s so cool” tried the demo and was like “F**K I’m buying that”. for me demo’s are nice in that it gives you a bit of a feel for the game, a good demo gives you just enough content to make you want to buy the full game. but like Geoff said, if it’s a bad game, a demo won’t do anything to tip the scales, but it does, at the very least, make you better equipped to make an informed decision about buying a certain game, rather than basing it on hype..cough cough Alpha Protocol

    • Trevor Davies

      I never bought Alpha Protocol because of all the crappy reviews, ended up getting it when it was in the bargain bin & really enjoyed it.

      • http://twitter.com/SaveTheQueenIX umar bastra

        Really, I think it’s because I was so hype for the game, it really wasn’t anything like I expected. awesome that you enjoyed it hough

      • http://twitter.com/SaveTheQueenIX umar bastra

        Really, I think it’s because I was so hype for the game, it really wasn’t anything like I expected. awesome that you enjoyed it hough

  • Trebzz

    Lat time i played a demo was when they used to give it to you when you bought a PS1 otherwise i see no point in it, you sit there downloading 2 gigs or whatever just to play maybe 1-2hrs and then what do you do after that?

    • http://twitter.com/SaveTheQueenIX umar bastra

      buy the full game if you want to

  • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

    I rarely play demos. Mostly because demos don’t ever seem to show what the game is actually capable of. So I reckon demos are important but that companies really need to shape up in regards to game quality.

  • http://twitter.com/mathuthe Mathias

    I used to buy a PC gaming magazine about 13 years ago. That magazine came with a CD. That CD had different demos for me to happily try out games I wouldn’t buy.

    Now companies decided demos are not worth it anymore. They release demos for some, none for others, and some other games release them and call them “betas”. But I don’t care anymore about demos. The DmC demo left a lot to be desired, but then I played the actual game and had a lot of fun.

    If companies kept releasing demos for every game, then maybe I’d still care about them. But because they stopped doing regulary, I don’t give a damn

  • Hybrid

    I need my demos if it weren’t for demos I probably would’ve owned a copy of Duke Nukem Forever.

    • Admiral Chief Erwin

      You would have owned it forever? :P

  • matthurstrsa

    Confession: I played the Dragon Age 2 demo. And still bought the game.

    • Brady miaau

      me too. And demo was not cool. Could not move camera angle, how stupid was that?

  • matthurstrsa

    To be fair, a lot people just pirate a game now if they want to try it out, and some will then buy that game if they liked it.

    I don’t do demos. I read reviews and find out as much as possible before buying.

  • Banana Jim

    Last demo I tried was Skyrim on PS3….

    But seriously, I can’t remember when I last even bothered to download a demo. I used to buy PSM and the xbox UK mag at Paperweight (for R10 each) for their demo disks but nowadays… naaahhh!

    • FoxOneZA

      Waaaaa? Xbox UK mag was R160 at CNA. And i actually contemplated buying it :?

      • Banana Jim

        Paperweight used to have them for between R10 and R30 but then obviously they’d be either 4 months to a year old.

  • Trevor Davies

    The only demo I’ve played in the last few years was for Kingdom of Amalur and that prompted me to not buy the game. It looked really good & seemed like fun, but they didn’t let you redefine the controls on the master platform demo. The dev’s response to complaints about that of, “oops, don’t worry, we’ll fix that in the final version” didn’t instill much confidence in the final product.

    • Brady miaau

      buy it. Demo was crap, game is awesome. Demo controls was weird, game controls not weird.

    • Brady miaau

      buy it. Demo was crap, game is awesome. Demo controls was weird, game controls not weird.

    • Brady miaau

      buy it. Demo was crap, game is awesome. Demo controls was weird, game controls not weird.

  • http://www.facebook.com/warren.ross.106 Warren Ross

    With PC games, I’ll play a demo if I can find one. My machine is a bit older so there’s always some concern about how newer titles will run (a demo isn’t always a great indication of performance, but it’s better than nothing). The last one I played was X-Com, after which I bought the game. I haven’t played console demos for years, especially since I don’t buy any magazines anymore. I still think a well-crafted demo can only help your product.

  • Guest

    I won’t buy the game without playing the demo first. If the studio didn’t release a demo and I am still interested I will torrent the full game and if I like it I will buy online.

  • Guest

    I won’t buy the game without playing the demo first. If the studio didn’t release a demo and I am still interested I will torrent the full game and if I like it I will buy online.

  • http://twitter.com/Kikmi Slade Boender

    Well. I used to love demo’s. Then I began reading reviews.

  • http://twitter.com/Kikmi Slade Boender

    Well. I used to love demo’s. Then I began reading reviews.

    • Brady miaau

      no arrow to the knee then?

      I will get my coat…..

      • http://twitter.com/Kikmi Slade Boender

        Well played good sir!

    • Brady miaau

      no arrow to the knee then?

      I will get my coat…..

  • Tbone187

    A few gameplay vidz and reviews online is enough for me to make a decision…If it’s a franchise/game I’m unfamiliar with then, perhaps a demo would be in order but still not a necessity …

  • Tbone187

    A few gameplay vidz and reviews online is enough for me to make a decision…If it’s a franchise/game I’m unfamiliar with then, perhaps a demo would be in order but still not a necessity …

  • Johan du Preez

    I love demos it gives you a chance to make up your mind to buy the game or not, I pirate the games I want to buy first and when im happy I go and buy them.

    The bad developers is the ones thats scared of a demo because it will show what a bad game it is and no one will buy it. Imagine the new Aliens: Colonial Marine had a demo ….. they would not have gotten one pre order ….

    I say bring back demos it might force the developers like Gearbox to actually do some work for a change.

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