Metacognition: Demo Dev-o

We’re back with our “thinking about thinking” series! If you’re interested in our previous deep thoughts, check out the Metacognition series.  Join us for some deep thoughts (and maybe the occasional not-so-deep thought) about gaming. If you find one you’d like to answer, you can either comment below or write a post and share the link so we can all read your fantastic thoughts!

Do you think game demos should be more prevalent?

…sort of?

y u no ever give straight answer??

In a perfect world, yes I think game demos are great. A carefully curated demo can not only give the public and idea of what your game is going to be like, and also give you as the developer some feedback about what’s good and what’s not so good, but can also add to the excitement for a game.

Unfortunately in practice this isn’t so easy.

I’m not a game developer, but I’ve heard the term “minimum viable product” thrown around a lot. This is a concept of presenting a playable product to a test audience, sans graphics and all the other bells and whistles that new games come with. It’s a demo of the mechanics and core gameplay elements, and usually looks like something you’d play on an Atari. The idea, if I’m interpreting this right, is to see if the game is fun even at this level, which would mean that once all the extra goodies are added, it’s going to be a great game because it works and it’s fun to play.

In this regard, I think demos are great. But what about demos that are closer to what the game will actually look like as a final product, like the fantastic discs that were made available for the original Playstation (and other systems).

Image result for fighting force
I played the crap out of this demo, for instance.

These are a double-edged sword, because there are three possibilities:

  1. The demo is great and the game is great
  2. The demo is great and the game is not as great
  3. The demo is poor and the game is great

In the case of the demo and game both being great, yes, demos are a good thing, because giving people a chance to take a sneak peek at a product and seeing all the cool stuff it has to offer might convince people to buy sooner rather than waiting, and might even gain you greater sales if you convince someone new to play. In an age where renting games is not as easy as it once was, it would definitely be nice to try out a game before either waiting for all the internet opinions to roll in or slapping down a bunch of money on a game that winds up not interesting you/being fun to play.

However, if the demo is not indicative of the final gameplay, then the demo will actually harm sales in the long run. The third point, having a poor demo for a great game, is fairly obvious in terms of why it’s bad for sales.  If the demo is awful, that’s the word that’s going to get out, and then folks will stay away, which is unfortunate because so many people will be missing out on a great game, and that great game just wasn’t done justice by its demo.

don't want

Almost as tragic is the second example: imagine playing a demo that has some of the most amazing gameplay you’ve ever played. You’re psyched for the game. You need to play the game, because if a 45-minute demo is this good, you can hardly imagine how much fun the game is actually going to be.

Now the game you get is pretty gosh darn good, but it’s not the amazing magical experience that was sold during the demo (*cough* Mass Effect: Andromeda *cough*). Word will spread like wildfire that the developers lied to the public about the product, that it doesn’t live up to the demo’s expectations, et cetera et cetera and so forth. So now folks who might have been on the fence don’t purchase the game now, because the publicity is bad, even though the game isn’t nearly as bad as public opinion might shout.

So, as usual, my answer to the question is, “It depends.”

You’re welcome.

Related image

What do you think? Should there be more demos? Are they cost effective? How should games handle pre-release accessibility to game content? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!

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    1. When they’re good, they most certainly work! I sometimes think “early access” has taken the place of the demo, but it seems like early access doesn’t always portray the game the way it will play out once it’s in the hands of the masses…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I remember reading a while back that demos were actually harmful to sales among the group that played them, more often then not. And now that videos and let’s plays and what not of games abound, they give some of what demos would deliver already. Demos still have a place, arguably a big one, and a lot of developers are still using them, but it’s been a long while since I myself took the time to go through one. I don’t think the quality of my purchasing decisions has fallen because of it, either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I’ve heard that before, as well, but i wonder if it was the quality of the demo, more than the fact that “a” demo existed, that caused the harm.

      No, I didn’t really play demos too much, either. It was really just that one. My brother and sister had a subscription to Nintendo Power for about a year, and otherwise we didn’t subscribe to any sort of gaming magazine. I didn’t even know demos were a “regular” thing until I was almost in college. (oops?)


  2. I think the last demo I played was for Pokemon Sun & Moon, 2-ish years ago. I never bought the game but the demo was cool (there are just too many Pokemons for me to keep up with nowadays *shakes cane*). Basically, it was like a preview tutorial not actually a part of the final game (if that makes any sense). But if you played this demo, you got to carry over a few things into the main game from it. I thought it was a neat approach. It gave people a taste of the final product while giving players a boost for playing the demo.

    But yeah, since demos have the potential to be very damaging (like you said) I think most game companies tend to write them off as an unnecessary risk to their product’s image.


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