Demos seal the deal when it comes to whether or not I’m going to pull the trigger on a new video game, but these days; you’re hard pressed to find a playable demo before buying. I’ve been a victim of buying a game that looked great in the trailer, sounded great in the description, and even got some really good reviews, but once purchased and installed one of the biggest mistakes of my life. A good example of this would be Rogue Legacy which looked like a ton of fun, but realistically is nothing more than a beefed up mobile app.
Ever since playable discs have existed there has been the demo. In the late 90s this is how a great deal of PlayStation, Xbox and dare I say Dreamcast games were sold. The PC era was no exception. Many Blizzard games have playable demos that stop you at a certain point in-game prompting you to buy the complete version to continue. Now a days the mobile market has divided this into two separate pieces. Where you can usually download a free version of the game that is playable to a certain point, at which time there is always the option to buy a paid version with more unlockables and game play.
One of the downfalls of having a cartridge based console like the Nindendo 64 at the time was the inability to produce playable demos with the system. So this would force you into the lines at the video game, rental, and toy stores only to play that ONE game that some 45 year old manager choose which always seemed to be one of the latest sports titles of the time. All of the different stores that offered games to try or at least watch as some red-headed douche bag kid hogged the controller until you had to leave.
These game demos were everywhere at one point. I remember video games coming in cereal boxes, with your Happy Meal, local video stores, toy stores; the list is endless. Both PlayStation and Xbox magazines respectively gave out demo discs with their issues. Although now a way to supply the gamers with access to new games, these discs would later become what is known as a “Rolling Demo” rather than a playable version of the game. Containing only CGI clips of a game that is “Coming Soon,” teasing games that haven’t even seen a production team yet… Although sometimes these demos would actually contain playable content that wouldn’t later be featured in the complete version of the game. A good example of this would be the demo for Half Life, known as Half Life: Uplink.
Another benefit of the demo but mainly on the PC, is your ability to gauge whether or not your system can handle the current game in questions output. For this reason especially for the newer and more demanding video games that are coming out, no one wants to spend 20-50 dollars on a game that their PC wont play. Something to mention while I’m talking about the PC is current Indie developers that give Early Access. Early Access, which is essentially an evolving playable demo, giving the player Beta or even Alpha access to the freshest and newest games in development.
In my opinion, not offering a playable demo to the person buying the game prior to purchase, shows me as the consumer, the developers lack of confidence in their product. Personally I feel as if most developers know they would lose close to 50% of their sales if people were able to test the game first. Most companies understand that offering a playable version of their game will draw in not only that player, but the people around him or her. A great example of this would be Blizzard when it comes to the World of Warcraft series, you a given the chance to play up to a certain point and then have to continue to play, but are given discounts if you recruit your friends to play the game as well.
I remember during the 5th gen console era playing demo discs. Mainly a PlayStation, Xbox, and Sega Dreamcast marketing strategy, spreading out past the 5th gen and began fading when the newer systems like Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 came out. I remember my first demo disc, it came with the PlayStation 1 that I had gotten for Christmas that year. Only receiving 2 games with the system, this demo disc had close to 6 playable demos on it and made it seem like I got way more out of the gift. As for the games I liked on that demo disc, it made me want them, and the ability to play further with friends.