Sadly, demos are rare these days
We now live in an era where an “exclusive Early Access beta test that can only be obtained by pre-order customers at participating retailers and download the app” is a thing. Whereas demos used to be straight-forward marketing tools, now, they’re branded and obfuscated into oblivion.
Still, at the end of the day, you get to actually play some form of the game, and it in theory helps you make a more informed purchasing decision. After hearing some readers talk about the updated Final Fantasy XV demo this morning, I started thinking — do people rely on demos as much as they used to?
When I first bought my NES, console demos as we know them today didn’t really exist. You could maybe go to a Sears and play a few games at a time, but outside of trying them out at a friend or family member’s house, it wasn’t really a mainstream thing — outside of a few rare promotional bonuses ran by a few places such as Nintendo Power. The PC had it on lock with concepts like shareware and freeware, but consoles didn’t widely adopt the scheme until years later.
That all changed when physical media became cheaper to produce, and “demo discs” were everywhere — I had stacks of them. They were an even bigger phenomenon on the Xbox 360, where nearly every Xbox Live Arcade game had a full-on trial of some sort. It was an amazing trend that sadly did not continue. Now, console demos are once again back to being a rare occurrence.
This has happened for multiple reasons. Games are often advertised as “platforms” now, constantly evolving, making it difficult to pin down one “demonstration” area — or so publishers claim. Other studies have shown that demos generally lead to a decrease in sales, especially when they are directly compared to flashy, bullshot, manipulated trailers that make the game seem way cooler than it actually is. I think the fact that half of the AAA industry ships broken experiences, requiring massive day-one patches is also partly at fault.
But regardless of the science behind it, how do you feel? Do you still enjoy it when a game is available in demo form?