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Do Game Demos Have an Adverse Effect On Sales? 178

Posted by Soulskill
from the why-buy-the-cow dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Unigamesity has an analysis of the effects game demos and beta tests have on the full release of video games. Quoting: 'If we think about LittleBigPlanet, Age of Conan or Mirror's Edge, we notice they have two things in common: very successful and well received demo versions (or beta stages) and very poor, lower than anticipated game sales. And since these are not the only titles in which a demo (or the lack of it) appears to be connected with their commercial success, I believe we should analyze the influence demos have in the game world and debate: are game demos game killers?'"
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Do Game Demos Have an Adverse Effect On Sales?

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  • LittleBigPlanet (Score:3, Insightful)

    by binarylarry (1338699) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:19PM (#26493415)

    I'm gonna have to blame the PS3 for LittleBigPlanet's failures.

    • by Nerdfest (867930)
      LBP seems like a neat game from what I've seen, so I can't explain that one. One thing that demos have stopped me from doing is buying bad games that I would have thought would be good. I've played many on XBL where I'm damn glad I played the demo ... some games look great, but play poorly. That said, I've bought games I wasn't sure I'd like because of the demo.
      • I meant the fact that the PS3 is very expensive and few people own one.

      • Re:LittleBigPlanet (Score:5, Insightful)

        by shawb (16347) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:56PM (#26493701)
        Look at the release dates of the games in question. A better title would read "Does A Failing Economy Have An Adverse Effect On Sales Of Luxury Items?"
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by MBraynard (653724)
          Well, despite a rough 2008, spending VG stuff grew by leaps and bounds - 20%.

          See here. [cnet.com]

          • by shawb (16347)
            Point well taken... video games are fairly inexpensive as far as luxuries go.
            • Re:LittleBigPlanet (Score:5, Interesting)

              by M1rth (790840) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:13AM (#26494263)

              The question was: "Do Game Demos Have An Adverse Effect On Sales?"

              The answer is: "Only if the game in question sucks, is mediocre, or is a one-joke wonder."

              A better question would be: "If they don't think their gameplay holds up, why won't they release a demo?"

              Compare Doom, for example. Doom, on the face of it, rocked for its time. Giving away an entire 1/3 of the game, far from "having an adverse effect on sales", helped make it a sales king. Even when id software released Doom2, they had a demo out, and the demo still kicked ass and drove sales.

              Now think of a lot of games with a demo that "hurt" sales. What games are these? They're mediocre titles. They're titles that just plain aren't worth $50-60 to buy in.

              They're the titles that the companies have to trick you into buying. A flashy set of screenshots on the box (that may or may not be representative of the game at all, or may be images of the pre-rendered cutscenes masquerading as "gameplay footage"), a paid-for (or threatened-for) review in a few magazines to garner an award or catchy phrase on the box (how many "best XXX of XXX - XXX magazine" blurbs do we see every year?), "managed review scores" that embargo any site giving below X% so as to trick the early-comers into thinking the game is hot (watch how many games drop from 90% to below 70% aggregate within a month or two of release, when the REAL gamers have their say) and so on.

              Kick out a demo of a stinker, and the demo will still be a stinker. Kick out a demo of a mediocre title, and you'll probably turn off those who don't have money (or time) to burn on mediocre titles. Kick out a demo of something that kicks ass, and you'll draw sales.

              Examples: I bought Doom on the strength of the "demo." I bought Descent on the strength of the demo. I bought Portal for the 360 on the strength of the demo. I bought the first episode of the Penny Arcade games on the strength of the demo (ok, so I bought episode 2 on the strength of episode 1).

              I dropped Rocky & Bullwinkle, N+, and Marathon:Durandal after deciding the demo proved they weren't for me. I might have bought Guitar Hero: World Tour but it's almost exactly the same as Rock Band, and I already burned two months' gaming budget buying Rock Band songs. I don't need to burn another two months' budget on the same exact songs (even if I just use the RB controllers) for GH:WT just to play an almost identical game.

              Video games may be "fairly inexpensive as far as luxuries go", but I still budget myself. $120 a month = 2 games, now. I think that's pretty extravagant. Plus working full-time and spending time out with friends (you know, enjoying natural light, social contact, girls, the real world and all), I don't have the time to buy 6 games/month and play them all anyways. I have to pick and choose. If there are demos, it helps me pick out the good ones. If a game doesn't have a demo, then my rent-before-buy policy will serve the same purpose.

              Lesson to the game purveyors: you're competing for $120 of my budget and 40 hours of my time each month. If you can't bring a demo to the table, then you've got one strike against you, because I know you don't think your gameplay will grip me enough to buy the game.

              • by wisty (1335733)

                Breakaway hits make up a good chunk of game revenue. I forget the exact statistics, but gaming companies only make money on a couple of big sellers. Putting out demos is marketing, and marketing is vital in hit-driven industries. It's like how singers get their hit single onto the radio to sell their CD. If their single sucks, then their CD won't sell, but that's part of the game.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            The number of people playing video games skyrocketed recently due to the Wii - now over 70% of the US population plays games. The market size increased dramatically but sales went up only 20%. It seems like new gamers buy less games. How many games were made in 2008 as compared to other years?

            • by Hadlock (143607)

              I think the "skyrocketing" had less to do with the Wii and more the fact that those of us born in the late 1970s/early-mid1980s have now grown up and have disposable income and are spending it on videogames, much to analysts in the early 2000's suprise. Of course video game sales are improving, their original market (now aged 22-30) now has 20-100% more disposable income from when they were in college, their original market exposed the rest of the university population (who now also has a substantial dispos

      • by cgenman (325138)

        How many people want to make video games, rather than play them? LBP was a game made for game makers, not people who just want to get lost in a fantasy. And while Mirror's Edge was a great concept, the execution definitely could have been better. Age of Conan a World of Warcraft killer? Do they have any idea how many MMO's lie dead now due to trying to go Head to Head with WoW's incredible installbase?

        To step back to a bigger scale, 80% of good games fail to recoup. It's just a fact that making a great

        • by unapersson (38207)

          LBP was a game made for game makers, not people who just want to get lost in a fantasy.

          Are you sure you've actually played it? The game is excellent, full of constant surprises and an excellent multiplayer experience. We've played it a lot and the only person to really touch the level creation side of things is our five year old son.

      • by multisync (218450)

        One thing that demos have stopped me from doing is buying bad games that I would have thought would be good

        +1 Insightful.

        Roger Ebert likes to point out when a studio doesn't hold screenings for critics. It's usually a sign that the movie sucks real bad, and they're hoping to make as much as they can on the opening weekend, before bad reviews and word-of-mouth let the public in on the fact that it's a dud.

        I'm not much of a gamer, but I always check out a game's demo before plunking down sixty or seventy doll

    • by bconway (63464)

      What failures? It's a fantastic game and there is an enormous online community. There are always people available to play with.

      • Sales
      • I agree that the game is a great one, but the failure he was talking about was presumably that LBP may not have sold as many copies as they were expecting. This may have had something to do with the PS3 not selling as many as they were expecting. If they had expected to sell LBP to 50% of the PS3 users for a total of... uh, I have no idea what the real numbers are, so lets say 1 million... but only 0.6 million people own PS3s, then it's going to be impossible for LBP to sell their goal no matter how great

    • by grumbel (592662)

      I would say that a big reason why LittleBigPlanet underperformed is the stupid censor policy they run, deleting levels without explanation, deleting everything that might be a copyright violation, even so it would be valid fair use, deleting stuff on their own without waiting for a DMCA takedown notice from the copyright holder, etc. When news about how cool and creative people are with the game is followed by news how all the cool stuff from last week got deleted, its not much of a surprise that some peopl

  • first? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HeronBlademaster (1079477) <heron@xnapid.com> on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:19PM (#26493419) Homepage

    Only if the game sucks.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Only if the game sucks.

      Or if the demo is so good that it obviates the need for the game itself.

      • by pHatidic (163975)

        Quake 3 Arena is probably the prime example of that. The demo was so good that there was absolutely no reason to buy the game. The only map that anyone ever played was the one that came with the demo anyway.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by p0tat03 (985078)

        Neither of those demos fit the bill: both Mirror's Edge and LittleBigPlanet did not give out so much content in the demos as to make the full game irrelevant.

        Rather, we should look at Mirror's Edge specifically (it's the only one of the 3 named that I have played):

        - Demo had incredible smooth-flowing motion, and awesome sense of immersion, is easy to pick up (but had hidden depth), and combat that added some spice without becoming overbearing.
        - Full version had the same smooth-flowing motion and immersion,

        • by NightRain (144349)

          Whereas for me, I though Mirrors edge sounded interesting, downloaded the demo and realised I was mistaken. After working out how to move and jump, I realised that the game was going to consist of nothing but more of this, and that simply wasn't compelling enough to make it worth the purchase. Though to be fair, this is a game I was unlikely to buy /unless/ the demo blew me away.

          Since getting my 360 recently, and having quota free content downloads from it with my ISP, I just grab any demo that looks va

  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:20PM (#26493423) Homepage Journal

    It's not that much of a stretch of the imagination to think that someone would demo Mirror's Edge and decide that it was so horrid that they'd rather buy some other game. Are you trying to suggest that gamers should be forced to cough up dough just to see how bad it is?

    • by binarylarry (1338699) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:21PM (#26493441)

      Maybe its more like... if your big draw relies on a gimmick that may wear thin during the demo, you may want to rethink your release strategy.

    • *GASP*

      Blasphemy!

      Everyone knows that everything that big record companies, movie studios AND game studios churn out is grade A quality! The mere mention of the idea that the reason for a game to sell poorly is because it sucks is like suggesting the sky is purple! EVERYONE knows that entertainment products only sell badly when they are pirated or when consumers are otherwise cheating hard working media executives out of their money.

    • Eh? Most people seem to agree that the ME demo was awesome and actually made the game seem better than it was (primarily because the game is quite short). I played the ME demo through once and immediately bought the game purely on the strength of that.

      I think a bigger reason for the poor sales of ME is that it was released around the same time as sequels to several well known series (COD, GoW etc). If you look at the game charts at that time they were whitewashed by sequels.

  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rinisari (521266) * on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:23PM (#26493449) Homepage Journal

    I would say yes, game demos can kill a game for these reasons:

    • Folks play the demo and realize they probably won't like the game
    • Folks play the demo and have "had enough," feeling no need to purchase the full version
    • Folks play the demo and realize their system can't handle it, so they'll wait until they have a new system that can handle it (and by then have forgotten about the game

    If you can try before you buy, of course sales are going to go down. Those who buy include those who tried and liked and those who didn't try but gave it a shot in the dark. The publisher/developer isn't really going to care what the user's opinion of the game is after the sale, lest a patch break the game or something like that.

    A buyer of a game may or may not tell others about that game, and if he or she does tell others, he may support a purchase or warn against the purchase.

    Demos serve a primary purpose: a test drive. If you like it, buy it and use it more. If you don't like it, don't buy it.

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      * Folks play the demo and realize they probably won't like the game

      We live in an age with media saturation. If Game Company A offers no demos, Companies B, C... X, Y, Z will be more than happy to.

      Unless the game A releases has some type of buzz then, B-Z get the sale.

      * Folks play the demo and have "had enough," feeling no need to purchase the full version

      This is easy to fix. I ran into demos like that. The point is to give a taste, not a meal.

      Just like a restuarant shouldn't stuff you with free appetizer

      • by multisync (218450)

        We live in an age with media saturation. If Game Company A offers no demos, Companies B, C... X, Y, Z will be more than happy to.

        Unless the game A releases has some type of buzz then, B-Z get the sale.

        That's true, but it has nothing to do with Rinisari (521266)'s point that one of the reasons a demo may hurt a game's sales is if it demonstrates that the game isn't any good. This statement is also true.

        This is easy to fix. I ran into demos like that. The point is to give a taste, not a meal.

        Just like a restu

  • Well... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by narcberry (1328009)

    I have never purchased a game after playing the demo.

    But I'm an impulse buyer, typically I play a demo after I own the game, so figure out where I fit in your slashmarket research.

  • does your game have the words Turning Point in it?

    http://www.gametrailers.com/player/31235.html [gametrailers.com]

    Sorry Dean, had to go there.

    • by log0n (18224)

      I haven't picked up TP yet (too many games im playing now) but I intend to when the queue lessens a bit. I got the demo on XBL and thoroughly enjoyed it. Generally I purchase my games after playing the demo.

      • Not that I want people to steer away from this masterpiece but this game is so bad it is the definition of what not to do in a video game. I want people to play it just for the entertainment value and laughs it will bring. Play TP and then play a game like CoD or any other FPS game in the last 5 years and it will be worth a comparison. If anything, don't pay money for it. Rent it and you will thank me later.

  • by Spez (566714) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:33PM (#26493537)
    If we take the given fact that demos are there for the users to try the game before they buy it, to know if they like it enough to play a "full length" game, I think this is a good thing. And the only thing we can deduce from the fact that those game, if after the users played the demos, didn't want to buy them, well it meant that either they didn't like the game enough, they didn't feel like it was worth it, or the novelty of the game was over after the Demo.

    In all the cases, the only thing the Demo did is to prevent the buyers from buying bad games or games they don't like. So it maybe hurt the game, but it was all for the benefit of the consumer.

    On the other hand, if the game company want to try their hand at passing "bad" games for "good" games, so that the buyers buy bad stuff, they should stop the buyers from trying it before. If you want to sell a bottle of water as vodka to someone, don't let him taste it before!
  • they only show the best bits of the game/movie.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:52PM (#26493675)

      Actually, it's not anywhere close to this in games. And that's exactly why demos are (for most games) not really good for sales.

      Let's be honest here. Most games today are prone to repetition. You do, essentially, the same thing over and over and over. Take the average FPS game. What's the difference between the first and the last level, usually? Different/more weapons and harder enemies. Where "harder" usually means "more" or "takes more shots or harder hitting guns to kill them". Add different map design and maybe different texture, and you're done with the differences.

      If that game should have some distinct feature (like, say, a portal gun), you WILL see this feature in the demo. Simply because you have to show it (and there your comparison to the "good parts" of the movie is right). So you have seen that distinct feature that sets it apart from the rest of the crowd in the demo. Why bother with the full version?

      OTOH, if you do not show that distinct feature, the player will just say "meh, another vanilla shooter game" and toss it immediately.

      A good demo should show you something neat, should show you why you want to play this game, but should also make you want to see more of it. Maybe hint that there is more to be seen if you get the full version.

      Instead, you usually get to see the first few levels of the game, you are allowed to play the tutorial or the first map. That's like showing the opener of the movie. Be honest. How many movies would you have wanted to see after seeing, say, the first 5 minutes?

      • by cgenman (325138) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:53AM (#26494103) Homepage

        Mod parent up.

        Making a demo is a complete PITA. You have to take premature code that isn't ready, splice everything in such a way that it kind of hangs together, finish your most polished level in a way that will probably need to be re-done anyway, and throw it all out there in a package that hopefully doesn't crash. Then re-do all of that emergency hack-job work for real. A demo can easily steal one to four development weeks from a team. And sadly, I have never used, seen, or built a demo with the skill or interest that a movie trailer can generate.

        A big part of that is that you simply have to teach the player how to play. And as you build up your game, you should be training the player in all of the various types of things they will need as they develop new powers and abilities. Essentially, if you're going to provide a 15 minute taste of the full game, you have to provide the first 15 minutes of the difficulty curve, and maybe throw in a spectacular boss fight earlier than when it would normally occur. If you were to provide a highlight reel of the game, you would be rapid-fire throwing disparate gameplay systems at the player in ways that your loading time and finish level can't support (remember, the demo is usually made before the game is finished). If your game was that ready, you'd ship it. And, as these are taken from the general development team and budget, any time spent polishing your demo is less time spent polishing your game.

        Compared to software and game demos, movie trailers are easy.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by quadrox (1174915)
          Because it is completely impossible to have the dev-team crank out the demo AFTER the game has gone gold and the entire world is waiting for presses to finish and the CD's to be shipped? Plenty of games have proven that it is possible to have a good demo that gives a good/correct/hones feel of the game and still keeps the player wanting more.
          • by Sparton (1358159)

            Because it is completely impossible to have the dev-team crank out the demo AFTER the game has gone gold and the entire world is waiting for presses to finish and the CD's to be shipped?

            A demo can easily steal one to four development weeks from a team.

            You have no idea how expensive this is, do you?

            Not to mention that asking a team to do a demo after a game has gone gold is basically saying to the team "well, you're done crunching to get the game done, now start crunching to get a demo done really quickly before it reaches retail!"

            That's asking for a nightmare in morale loss and mistakes.

          • by Sj0 (472011)

            I'm reminded of two games which sold a lot of copies because of the demo: Starcraft and Unreal Tournament. The demos were both so incredible, we immediately wanted the real thing.

      • by quadrox (1174915) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @04:05AM (#26495095)
        Oh my fucking god - it's people in the game industry thinking like you that get us these generic fucking bullshit games.

        Several games have already proven that it can indeed be different. The best example I can think of right now is the old half-life, though there are others as well. I enjoyed half-life as much as I did, because it was so varied. There was a lot of variance in the enemies to fight, and the marines were really great to fight against. Sometimes you were mostly "exploring" this awesome and big scientific complex, with all sorts of odd machinery and stuff. And sometimes you had to solve neat puzzles that were not too contrived but still got you thinking (a bit). The weapons also were very varied and generally extremely "satisfying" to use.

        Yes, there is the better weapon/harder enemies progression as well, but that is absolutely fucking not the only thing you can do to make a game fun. I enjoyed every single minute of the original half-life because it got me so immersed as there was always something new and fresh to it. The developers really did everything they could to keep the players interest focused.

        It's possible, the developers just need to be aware of the fact that there ARE ways to keep the players interest, instead of stringing one section of bland hallway after another (I'm looking at you, F.E.A.R.)
  • Demoers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:37PM (#26493569) Journal
    I'd be inclined to suspect that, while releasing a demo will serve to improve the correlation between your game's quality and its sales(this can cut either way) assuming that the demo isn't really dreadful or good enough to substitute for the real thing. However, I further suspect that your demo audience is not representative, and won't tell you as much as you might like.

    For anybody with decent broadband and a modern hard disk, obtaining a demo is fairly quick and essentially free, so you should expect that anybody even vaguely interested will download and try it. For that matter, some people who are merely bored will probably do so as well. In addition, whatever crazed core of supporters your game has will, obviously, latch on to the demo or beta and set the web on fire about it. So, you should expect the demo crowd to be quite large and, in part, highly vocal, no matter how good or bad the game is.
  • Conan (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kamokazi (1080091) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:00AM (#26493725)

    Age of Conan is a bad example. It sold 800k copies, which is pretty good for many PC games. The number of subscribers retained is miniscule though.

    What they did was made the first 20 levels of the game awesome. The remainder....to be very kind....not so awesome.

    Basically, if your game is good, demo it with a hardcore cliffhanger ending. If your game is bad, don't demo it at all and show pretty screenshots and generate false hype.

  • Crappy game demos cause crappy end sales? How is this news? If I get the chance to try a game and determine it sucks of course I won't buy it.
  • by Peganthyrus (713645) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:16AM (#26493841) Homepage

    "very successful and well received demo versions" seems to translate to "widely-downloaded demo" rather than "demo that makes people rant and rave about how awesome this will be".

    LittleBigPlanet was getting a lot of Sony's promotional efforts behind it. This article notes that Sony is hoping it'll be a console-selling game.

    Mirror's Edge also had a lot of EA's promotion behind it.

    I dunno how much puffery Conan was getting as I refuse to play MMORPGs; I only become aware of them when half my friends get sucked into them.

    So... lots of people have heard of at least two of the titles this article discusses. Lots of people are curious about them because of all the articles praising them as revolutionary, important, etc. So lots of people downloaded the thing, and decided it was not for them.

    Isn't that what a demo is for? Hell, I'm one of the people that downloaded the Mirror's Edge demo solely because of all the hype. I didn't even finish the demo level because I really just don't like first-person games. I also downloaded Space Giraffe and Braid, played the demos, paid my money, and told my friends about these awesome games I just bought.

    Lots of people pick up books in the bookstore, flip through them and read a few pages, then put them back on the shelf unpurchased. I would bet that if we had any way of counting this, we would find that books with an aggressive press campaign have more people pick them up to flip through.

    • by Nerdfest (867930)
      The demo of Braid sold me, and 2 friends as well. If it wasn't for the demo, it's not very likely I would have considered it.
    • by rpillala (583965)

      You might be interested in a book I'm reading called Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill. Also, he has a company [envirosell.com] that counts the sort of thing you're talking about with respect to books and marketing.

  • by WiiVault (1039946) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:28AM (#26493925)
    Seriously do it.
  • by Zerth (26112) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:34AM (#26493983)

    He equals "downloads of demo" with "success". Downloading the demo only indicates enough interest to try something free, not enjoyment and barely intent to purchase.

    If he really wanted to predict success, the demos should end with "Press A if you liked this demo, B if you intend to buy the full game, or X if you thought it was crap"

    Then you might have a handle on a game's future success.

  • by Cathoderoytube (1088737) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:40AM (#26494027)
    That's is sort of a dumb argument. The idea is that if gamers try a game and decide it's not worth buying, they won't buy it? Does this apply to game rentals as well? What about game reviews? In those cases developers won't see any revenue for their games, but it allows gamers a glimpse of what the game is. In the perfect world developers would make nothing but great games and we wouldn't have to worry about trying them before hand. Unfortunately that's not the case.
  • by Werthless5 (1116649) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:57AM (#26494127)

    "LittleBigPlanet, Age of Conan or Mirror's Edge, we notice they have two things in common: very successful and well received demo versions (or beta stages) and very poor, lower than anticipated game sales."

    LittleBigPlanet = great demo! Similarly, great first hour or two of game! The rest of the game is boring and monotonous. In other words, the demo is actually more fun than the real game.

    Age of Conan = WOW clone but not as good, people always praise WOW clones but prefer to play the original

    Mirror's Edge = Great concept, except the rest of the game is the same thing over and over. Again, this means the demo is great, but the rest of the game is basically the demo over and over again.

    What do all three of these games have in common? THEY SUCK!

    Warhammer 40k had a well-received demo and it sold very well, enough to warrant 3 expansions and a soon to be released sequel that some claim will be Starcraft 2's main competition.

    Speaking of Starcraft, it's one of the best selling games of all time and it had a well-received demo.

    WOW has a demo and it has the highest subscription rate out of any MMO in the country.

    Sorry, idea was initially interesting but fails on a many levels.

    • WOW has a demo and it has the highest subscription rate out of any MMO in the country.

      Exactly what I was going to say. The funny thing is, the WoW 10-level demo actually kinda sucks insofar that you don't get to run an instance or pvp. But, I guess that stuff is a little complicated for a newbie taking a test drive, so simple is good.
      The cool thing about WoW is that the full game basically gets more kickass the further into it you get. Some titles like AoC apparently couldn't deliver on that point. My new b

    • by grumbel (592662)

      LittleBigPlanet = great demo!

      Which demo? Where can I get that? Unless I am not completly mistaken that game never had a demo, but just a closed beta test.

      • by spectecjr (31235)

        Which demo? Where can I get that? Unless I am not completly mistaken that game never had a demo, but just a closed beta test.

        Exactly. It's not on the Playstation Store - I've looked, repeatedly.

    • this means the demo is great, but the rest of the game is basically the demo over and over again.

      Well yeah, but that means if you liked the demo then you'll probably like the full game. I was one of those people. If anything my biggest problem with the game was that there just wasn't enough of it.

      Now sure if you don't like the jumping/running mechanic, it's not the game for you, but they had enough variety in the level designs that the demo was pretty representative of the real game experience without makin

      • And part of that lies with the review sites and the gaming community. If everyone tells you that the rest of the game sucks beyond the beginning bit, how likely are you to purchase that game? Most people will avoid the full version unless they greatly enjoyed that demo.

        Thus, we see the real pattern here: bad game = poor sales, good game = good sales. As a corollary, I think a good demo could only give you a sales boost (by impressing skeptics) whereas a bad demo will cost you sales.

        Word of mouth is the m

  • LBP - what failure? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tbird20d (600059) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:57AM (#26494131)

    very poor, lower than anticipated game sales

    LittleBigPlanet is closing in on 2 million sales after 10 weeks. See vgchartz. [vgchartz.com]

    It started off a little slow, but picked up steam through the holidays. This game doesn't support the hypothesis.

    • by p0tat03 (985078)

      And look at Mirror's Edge. A successful game by most measures, though not quite as successful as EA had hoped. But look at the review scores: those explain your problem.

  • Goes both ways (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JimboFBX (1097277) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:34AM (#26494401)
    Kinda a silly article since it probably goes both ways.

    Games I bought because of the demo:
    Klick and Play
    Dark Reign 2
    World of Goo
    Braid
    Battlefield 2
    Defcon
    Shadowgrounds
    The Ship (free weekend)
    Red Orchestra (free weekend)
    Day of Defeat: Source (free weekend)
    Sam and Max: Episode 1 (and later both seasons)

    Games I didn't buy because of the demo:
    Left 4 Dead (fast zombies didn't appeal to me)
    Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
    a few I can't remember

    Games I bought because of beta:
    Red Alert 3

    Overall, for me at least, the ones I've bought are ones where I didn't have trust that it was good quality beforehand or was unsure I would enjoy it. The ones that turned me away are the ones I was hyped up to think it was good beforehand either by good reviews or marketing. I probably would have bought them had it not for the demo.
    • I've bought tons of games because the demos kicked ass. I got cossacks because of the demo, and ended up buying the whole series and the demos for battlefield 2 and castle wolfenstein also got me to buy.
      I think if you are developing a game and are concerned that people playing the demo won't buy it, you need to put more effort into the game.

      As a developer, I can see how someone could show statistical evidence persuading me that no demos means more sales, but I still wouldn't do it. I'd rather my sales be a

    • Yes it does go both ways. I have a list like yours but one of my favorite examples is HOMM. I downloaded the demo for HOMM2 on a whim around half a decade ago. (Even by then it was already pretty dated.) It had a single large map but like Diablo, the placement of monsters, treasures were different each time. Plus you could set the difficult level, etc so no two games were alike. In theory, that would have been "more than enough" as an earlier poster had said. Heck, I wasn't even into that genre but somehow,

  • Yeah. I can see how that worked out for Age of Conan. World of Warcraft also had a very well received beta period and the outcome was also entirely unexpected.

  • I've seen a study that found out that indie games sell better without a demo available (the page was randomly served with and without a demo download option, the one without the option showed more sales, I presume they used cookies to make sure they serve the same version to the same people or something) but I don't think the failure of these specific games is to blame on the demo. Mirror's Edge and Little Big Planet are stylized games with quirky game design (one is a first person jump&run, the other i

  • A demo for a good game will increase sales, and for a bad game it will decrease sales. Solution: stop publishing bad games.

    I wouldn't have bought Starcraft, Diablo 2, or anything made by Spiderweb Software, for example, if not for their demos. Can't think of many bad games I actually bothered with the demo (if it existed) of, though.

  • by philspear (1142299) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @03:08AM (#26494849)

    Dear videogame industry,

    Why do you spend so much time and effort coming up with excuses and reasons why you failed on X game but not Y game? Make good games, offer them at a reasonable price, and don't mess up our computers/consoles to run it, and we will give you MONEY for it. Seriously. The other factors like "do demos hurt or help" are trivial at best, you still haven't learned the most important lesson that quality products = sales.

    There are plenty of examples of this, it boggles the mind that you consistently look for alternative explanations. "Generic minigame collection 5 didn't sell too well. Maybe it was because people don't like games that have 5s or a multiple of 5 in the title!" No, it was because generic minigames 5 was crap and no one wanted to own it (as opposed to generic minigame collection 4.) THAT'S why you don't have as much money as you wanted.

    If you find yourself not having as much money after making a game as you expected, don't immediately jump to blaming things like weather patterns in florida, first determine if it was a good game. Then ask yourself if your expectations were at all reasonable. AFTER that you can ask yourself what went wrong.

    • This. This article reveals a poorly thought out idea. All it does is allow the gaming industry to lie to itself; it's not our fault that sales are lower than expected, it's because we released a demo!

      It takes 2 seconds to dispel such a stupid concept. Worst of all, someone got paid to come up with that idea!

    • by Kindaian (577374)

      The most annoying thing in games are those that only work if you have a super computer.

      That is shooting on your own foot!

      I played Everquest (the original) and it was great. Good enough detail and good responsiveness, both from server and from my computer.

      Then they made 2 expansions and it still was ok...

      Then they made the moons expansion, upgraded the graphic engine, new spell effects and so on, and hell broke loose!

      They transformed a good game into a lag machine.

      Soon after, they lost a player on me...

    • by Sparton (1358159)

      The other factors like "do demos hurt or help" are trivial at best, you still haven't learned the most important lesson that quality products = sales.

      The thing is, quality of the product and sales are related, but quality products == good sales. It's worth looking into different ways of seeing what affects the profitability of games, since there are people like me who make a living out of it, and we like keeping our jobs.

      I don't agree with the articles premise of good demos being a negative detractor in even most cases, but there are other features of a game that would certainly affect sales.

  • While at the topic of game sales, whats up with PS3 game prices in the UK? LittleBigPlanet, MirrorsEdge, Resistence2, Fallout3 and a whole bunch of other pretty new games sell for less then half the regular price on Amazon.co.uk.

  • That makes no sense (Score:2, Informative)

    by deveraux (1400161)
    No offense, but that theory is nonsense and I doubt that the author did proper research on the topic. Age of Conan failed because at the time it was filled with a two or at max four weeks of content and that was it. The gameplay totally changed after the first 20 levels, from a deep single player action-adventure - which was alot of fun in the vein of Oblivion and The Witcher - to a dull and empty game with no content. ALSO: Promised features that didn't make it into the release version. I fell in love wit
  • There are other factors to consider too. I purchased Unreal Tournament 2003 based on how much I liked the first game and the demo for 2003.

    Rumor had it that Halo was never going to be released on the PC in order to bolster Xbox sales. Lo and behold, that turned out to be false and one year later, Unreal Tournament 2004 comes out to compete with Halo.

    What was 2004 but 2003 + vehicles? While I loved the demo, I was pissed that I spent $50 on the game only to have the next one come out 1 year later. Of cou

  • Naturally it's not past sales they effect, but what I mean is that if I buy a game based on the demo and then find out that everything good about the game was in the demo and the game actually sucked when you balance out everything good with everything bad, then I will probably never trust that publisher again. Of course, what matters even more is if the game sucks - after Black & White, I couldn't bring myself to buy the sequel, for example, because I simply couldn't trust that it wouldn't be more frus

    • Furthermore, you're likely to tell everyone your opinion on the game: the demo was good, but the game sucks and you feel cheated. This will cost them even more sales on future titles AND it will cost them sales on the game that you purchased.

  • I remember downloading the Bioshock demo when Bioshock first came out and discovering that it I would get a BSOD about a couple minutes into it. I remember downloading the Timeshift demo and discovering that the executable wouldn't even... execute. I remember downloading the Unreal Tournament 3 demo and having to spend a couple of hours searching forums and playing with obscure settings just to get it to run.

    The only game out of those three I bought was UT3. However, Epic seems to have considered UT3
  • I don't think a demo is going to make a bit of difference in the sales of a good quality game; it is probably, more than anything else, likely to work exactly like good advertising of a product. Good advertising of a lousy product will cause people to get hold of it faster, thus causing the 'early adopters' to get it into their hands ahead of the ordinary customer. These early adopter people, if the product sucks, will tell lots of their friends and will sink it faster than no advertising or even ineffect
  • I'm sorry, but the days of spending $60 on a game that offers 3-5 hours of gameplay is right out. After the Doom 3/Blue Shift fiasco, I always wait to hear what other *gamers* who actually shuck out there own cash think of it.

    Mirror's Edge got heavy, heavy promotion. Heck, thought I even saw an advert for a TV show tie in? People got it and reported how short of a game it is. $50-60 is too much. Strong game with no content -- the studio should not be shocked that it does not sell once word of mouth get

  • If you look at Age Of Conan, it had a large beta and then flopped.

    Yes, and if you look at EverQuest, it has a large beta and was so successful as to be synonymous with the genre for years. World of Warcraft also had a large beta and did massively well.

    So far, all we've established is that MMOs have large betas.

    Without the level of game balancing and bug testing that can only come from vast numbers of people doing stupid things, exploiting systems, trying something creative, an MMO without a beta would launc

  • I love demos when they are done good. I remember playing the Metal Gear Solid demo that I got at Pizza Hut for ever, then once the game came out, I picked up the game. Likewise, we had a LAN party where all we wound up playing was the demo for Battle Field 1942, for seven hours. We knew Wake Island like the backs or our hands when we were done. Then we bought the game. Problems with demos are that they make non playable demos. If I start a demo, I want to see the game, not five minutes of commercials
  • I've bought several games, console and PC, based on demos.

  • I buy games based on gameplay footage found on YouTube, backed up by customer reviews on Amazon. I've given a little back, too, posting my own footage and submitting my own reviews if I have a strong opinion on a game.

  • Demos aren't enough to persuade me to buy a game. After all, a demo might very well be the the best part of the game. I can't trust game reviews, either; if the editorial staff of a given site/magazine hasn't been corrupted, I might not like a well-reviewed game simply because the reviewer's tastes are not my tastes. As far as I'm concerned, the only answer is to rent all games. If I like a game after I'm done renting it, I'll buy a copy the next time I want to play it. Otherwise, I won't buy.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.

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