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Games Entertainment

Do Game Demos Have an Adverse Effect On Sales? 178

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 Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:19AM (#26493415)

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

  • first? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HeronBlademaster ( 1079477 ) <> on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:19AM (#26493419) Homepage

    Only if the game sucks.

  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:20AM (#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?

  • Re:first? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:21AM (#26493443)

    Only if the game sucks.

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

  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rinisari ( 521266 ) * on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:23AM (#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 Spez ( 566714 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:33AM (#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!
  • Demoers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:37AM (#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.
  • Re:LittleBigPlanet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shawb ( 16347 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:56AM (#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?"
  • by Peganthyrus ( 713645 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:16AM (#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 Zerth ( 26112 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:34AM (#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 @01:40AM (#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 quadrox ( 1174915 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @05:08AM (#26495111)
    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 KDR_11k ( 778916 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @05:39AM (#26495253)

    Or your game design...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @08:07AM (#26495891)

    Demos are extremely good for any game that cannot afford proper advertisement because (if the demo is good) it is advertisement that will be passed on by recommendation. So, for small studios trying to get a start, demos are great.

    If the game is already heavily advertised, a demo is going to hurt it. The demo lets people who are just wondering about the game try it out. Some people wouldn't have bought the game without the demo, some would have tried the game if they couldn't get the demo. In the end, if the demo is very good, the best you're likely to get is a break-even, while a decrease in sales is likely possible as well.

    So, Sony and EA should sack the demos, garages should pump them out.

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright