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Are demos bad for the industry and developers?

Submitted by on Friday, 20 February 20094 Comments

killzone2aGame Demos have been part of the industry for as long as we can remember and offer gamers the chance to try out a game without taking any money from their pockets.

However we ask ourselves, are demos actually bad for the industry and developers?

When a developer releases a demo for a game, they hope that in making the effort to do so it will persuade more gamers to invest cash into buying the whole game.

They can come in many shapes and sizes, from a section of a first level – think Killzone 2 – to a completely new level that you can’t play in the actual product.

Burnout Paradise is an example of a game that had a very good demo. I remember when I downloaded that 1GB+ demo a year ago, I enjoyed it so much and it pushed me into spending my money to experience the whole title, after previously having little intention of getting the game in the first place.

Burnout Hotrod 2

Although demos take a small amount of time from developers’ busy schedules that they could be used to improve the final product, if done right, it can help them in hyping up their game and driving sales.

So if they choose to take this approach, it’s important to leave gamers wanting more instead of being disappointed, especially if they intended in getting the game in the first place and now have a change their minds.

Many of you have downloaded the recent Killzone 2 demo that hit the European PlayStation Store and was available to those who pre-ordered the game from Gamespot in the States. Of course the sequel to Killzone has been extremely anticipated before the demo even hit the PlayStation Network, so in many ways the demo was not required.


However some gamers were disappointed, mainly with the slow controls and the reported lag. So what message should this give to developers?

If you are going to make a demo, make sure that the demo is as representative of the final experience as possible and not leave gamers disappointed.

Indeed, most demos do clearly state that the demo is not a final build, however when you want to get people to buy the game, you want it to be as good as possible.

We must point out that many were more hyped for the title and taken aback by the extraordinary graphics after playing the demo so it did have a positive effect for the majority.

And then there is another argument against demos… does it ruin your first experience with the game when you pop it into the machine?

If you get so familiar with a demo, when you actually play the game in full you may feel your time is ruined by the fact that it is not so fresh and new. It’s probably a small price to pay for trying before you buy.

These days, demos appear to becoming less and less important for developers. Not only does it take away valuable developing time, many gamers now just go onto the internet to find out about games and see how it plays.

On the other hand, with the increasing number of casual gamers who won’t necessarily do their research, demos are still a good way of enticing new people into games. For as long as the casual crowd continues to grow, demos will still be part of the industry.

This is especially for games like Mirror’s Edge that offer a new genre of gaming. In this case a demo can be a good way in getting people to be interested in a game if they are unsure by the new style of gameplay that has been created.