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?
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).
These are a double-edged sword, because there are three possibilities:
- The demo is great and the game is great
- The demo is great and the game is not as great
- 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.
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.”
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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