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Default Shack News - Versus Mode:Demos

May 3rd, 2008, 18:49
Shacknews editors Aaron Linde and Nick Breckon have a joint article up arguing the pros and cons of game demos.
Recent data out of the MI6 video game conference appears to show that demos may actually hurt sales of games across the board….
Potentially deceptive evidence aside, plenty of developers have passed on a demo release recently, for reasons ranging from cost of production to unrepresentative gameplay. What would happen if publishers began to cut down even more on demos? Would that be a good thing—from either the consumer standpoint, or that of the industry?
Breckon takes the pro argument, arguing cost of games makes a demo necessary to increase consumer involvement and satisfaction:
If the industry were to generally phase out demos, it would be a slap in the face—not in a nostalgic sense, but purely from the standpoint of a consumer…
If you haven't noticed, a game is $60 these days—$60 goddamned dollars. This isn't a movie, where a decent trailer is enough to warrant a $10 investment. We're talking 60 trips to the dollar store here…For the gaming industry to strong-arm consumers into making blind purchases seems counter-productive to me. Are they trying to encourage rentals or resales? Are they looking to prop up piracy even more? How does that help their business?
Of course you can make the argument that great games don't need demos to sell, and terrible games are hurt by them. This ignores the fact that most games released today don't fall into either of those extreme categories.
Linde argues that most games have enough information available before release that fans shouldn't need a demo to make up their minds, and that it takes money away from game development:
I'm not going to suggest that demos aren't useful, because they are. … But industry-wide delirium notwithstanding, there's so much coverage and so much information out there that you have to make a significant effort to buy a game knowing virtually nothing about it. A lot of big name titles like Fallout 3 and Gears of War 2 won't be featuring demos, and I'm okay with that. It takes a shitload of time, effort and money to craft a demo, and often requires extensive tweaking to make it work in a standalone setting, and that's work that I'd rather go towards polishing the game. Dumping budget into a demo rather than development proper is like dumping budget into expanded marketing, which is something I could do without.
There are some additional points about how reviews and industry coverage factor in, so for the whole 3 page article, check out the link above.
More information.
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May 3rd, 2008, 18:49
What a ridiculous argument: Demos are not needed because consumers have plenty of hype to base their decisions on. Are you kidding me. Almost every time I suffer momentary brain damage, and fall for the hype, I end up feeling screwed in the, well, end.
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May 3rd, 2008, 19:10
On another note, demos can be hugely deceptive. It may be great, but totally unrepresentative of a game, or vice versa. We again fell/are screwed, in the end.

Lately, I'm trying out demos mainly to see if my rig can handle a game or not.
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May 3rd, 2008, 21:03
Originally Posted by Arma View Post
Lately, I'm trying out demos mainly to see if my rig can handle a game or not.
Even this part can be deceptive. I'm just thinking of The Witcher. My computer could handle the demo well, without too many problems. With the start of Chapter 2 (the demo is most of Chapter 1), I had to look for a different video driver. Chapter 3 needed another system adjustment. I found that weird, but that's how I experienced it.
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May 4th, 2008, 15:44
I have to say that lately demos have been mainly a tool for me to see if I will like a game technically, control-wise, and mechanics wise, and that's about all I expect to find out in a demo of any rpg or rpg-like game. There just isn't enough time in a demo to do more than get a very basic idea of the game most times. Still, I really appreciate devs who make a demo available and would hate to see this practice disappear.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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May 4th, 2008, 21:04
If there's not a demo there's other ways to acquire one and I do that routinely to see if a game is worth buying.

If a company is going to build a game they should just make it fun.

There was a statement made at the Game Developers Conference a few years back, "Original games don't sell..until they do. And then they sell very well."

Developer of The Wizard's Grave Android game. Discussion Thread:
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May 4th, 2008, 22:18
No demo = more warez.

Simple as that.

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May 5th, 2008, 08:38
You know, it is kind of sad. I mean it's bad enough that most new games feel like Hollywood movies - based entirely on the lowest common denominator as far as story, complexity and gameplay are concerned. But the fact that games companies don't tend to do those little neat things for their customers anymore, that's really sad. Does anyone remember the days when there was but one edition of a game and it came with all kinds of extra stuff? Like, you know, printed manual, coins, maps, stuff? Most of that has vanished now or has been relegated to special editions, hell, most of the time you don't even get a box anymore, you get a stupid DVD case.

It's kind of the same for me with demos. Demos may not actually help the company as far as actual sales are concerned, but it's a hell of a nice thing to do for your customer. It's what makes me personally really appreciate a company because it gives me the feeling they care about their customers. I can check how well it'll run on my machine, if I like the general feel of it etc.

Best example for a company that used to care about details like that and now doesn't: Bethesda. There were demos for Arena and Daggerfall, but then they stopped doing that when they grew into one of those huge companies. Why? Because they don't feel they have to do it. Kind of sad if you ask me.

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May 6th, 2008, 00:18
If you haven't noticed, a game is $60 these days
Were games cheaper before then? I remember games costing the equivalent of $60 ten years ago in the UK - games are actually quite a bit cheaper now than they used to be.


Originally Posted by stargelman View Post
Best example for a company that used to care about details like that and now doesn't: Bethesda. There were demos for Arena and Daggerfall, but then they stopped doing that when they grew into one of those huge companies. Why? Because they don't feel they have to do it. Kind of sad if you ask me.
In the relatively recent article where Bethsoft talked about demos I'm pretty sure that 'they don't feel they have to do it' was never one of the reasons.

The daggerfall demo wasn't representative of the final game, and zots are better spent elsewhere I think, unless you can knock up a very quick technical demo that just acts as a system check.
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May 6th, 2008, 02:04
Originally Posted by magerette View Post
I have to say that lately demos have been mainly a tool for me to see if I will like a game technically, control-wise, and mechanics wise, and that's about all I expect to find out in a demo of any rpg or rpg-like game. There just isn't enough time in a demo to do more than get a very basic idea of the game most times. Still, I really appreciate devs who make a demo available and would hate to see this practice disappear.
Same here. I was very happy that Pool of Radiance II had a demo .
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May 6th, 2008, 14:57
Originally Posted by magerette View Post
I have to say that lately demos have been mainly a tool for me to see if I will like a game technically, control-wise, and mechanics wise, and that's about all I expect to find out in a demo of any rpg or rpg-like game. There just isn't enough time in a demo to do more than get a very basic idea of the game most times. Still, I really appreciate devs who make a demo available and would hate to see this practice disappear.
Same for me, but that is some very valuable information. I cant really see what consumers can lose from trying out game mechanics, controls, and performance.

I also have a hard time accepting technical arguments against releasing demos. While demos cant give a representative sample of a game in a statistical sense it shouldnt be that hard to excise one intro dungeon (in a RPG), a tutorial section (for any game that has it), or a quarter's worth of gameplay from a basketball game. Any good design should be so modular that this should be fairly easy.

It is fairly easy to see how a demo would hurt sales though, particularly for poorly optimised games like NWN2 (which I wouldnt have gotten if I had tried a demo). And I can also see how it is hard to extract a sufficiently optimised demo early enough to use it as part of the pre-release marketing hype.

But from a pure consumer perspective it is hard to see any disadvantages to demos
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May 6th, 2008, 15:06
Originally Posted by kalniel View Post
Were games cheaper before then? I remember games costing the equivalent of $60 ten years ago in the UK - games are actually quite a bit cheaper now than they used to be.
It's been stagnant in the US for about 17 years I'd say. I remember in the 80's paying about $35 for the likes of Kings Quest and the early Ultimas, then they started creeping up. I distinctly remember that if you ordered Ultima VI from Origin directly, they wanted $69.99! And that was in 1990! However, retail was in the 40's. After that, I don't think I ever saw a game go for more than $49.99 as a starting price until very recently, and still that seems more often than not to be console games (or maybe I'm just buying games later in their life cycle now).

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