You ever ask yourself why most publishers and developers do not provide a Free Demo for their games before or upon release on consoles? What is the real reason we do not see Free Demos for most games these days? I have my theories on why some publishers and developers may be straying away from this concept along with possible pros and cons of offering a Free Demo to the consumer – Time for some TiC Talk.
In today’s digital age you would think that developers and publishers would take advantage of the ability to showcase their games by providing a preview to a wide range of audiences that may not be thinking of purchasing their game otherwise. In fact, with just about every game available digitally, it would seem that producing and distributing a game demo is simpler to do than ever before. When you look at the number of games released since the start of this generation in 2013 vs. the number of Free Demos, the outcome is appalling.
By the numbers – Exhibit A: Number of PS4 Games vs. number of Free Demos available
Number of Games Released on PS4 since release in 2013 = Over 1,100 (most available digitally).
Number of Demos on PS4 available since release in 2013 = 84
Only about 8.4% of games released on PS4 since 2013 have Free Demos available (digitally)
Does anyone see a problem with this?
It appeared that one console focused publisher by the name of Sony was committed to take advantage of the accessibility of the digital age at the beginning of this generation. I specifically remember when Sony announced the PS4 and began to communicate its features. One of the most impressive they communicated was the ability to try every digital game before you buy.
Such communication came out the very mouth of Sony’s David Perry (CEO, Gaikai SIE) on multiple occasions. However, this feature has yet to come to fruition and is rarely even discussed anymore. Was it axed due to game publishers not being on board with this idea? Was this something that was seen as more of a con rather than a pro?
What May Be Going Through the Heads of Consumers and Developers
Some developers will say that there aren’t enough resources to put into a demo or that development time won’t allow for it. I can see this possibly being a factor being that so many games have been delayed due to developer inability to meet their projected release deadlines. In this case I could partially see why putting together a demo could be a hindrance, but then again in that scenario putting out a demo could potentially keep the consumer interested in the game, and further overall engagement making the extra effort to provide this worth it.
There are some consumers that will point out that we have decent offerings such as Game Preview on Xbox One, which was inspired by Valve’s Steam Early Access, or EA Access that allows consumers to try certain games before they buy. The Game Preview offering is impressive and gives consumers a chance to play games that are still in development with the option of trying for free before buying in. Only problem is, this is not something that is available to the mass population as developers and publishers still have to choose to opt in, and it is an exclusive offering for one platform. As for EA access, you’re paying a monthly fee so that’s not free whatsoever which totally excludes the “free” part in Free Demo. So, as you can see, this is not the solution to the overall problem.
Has the increase in Betas replaced the Free Demo?
Betas are nothing new, but have become more common this generation. With big games like Destiny being one of the first to start the beta trend, and most recent titles such as Street Fighter V, Gears of War 4, and Overwatch, it has become a popular tool for developers to “stress test” their servers for multiplayer games and at the same time give consumers a preview. It works almost in the same manner as a demo, but a beta must never, I repeat never, be accepted as one.
Reasons why a beta should never be seen as a demo:
- Betas typically only last for a few weeks while a game demo is typically available indefinitely, with a few exceptions where a demo will only be available for a week or so like the game Nioh on PS4.
- Betas are typically exclusive to multiplayer games for the purpose of stress testing servers. While this is definitely a good thing to ensure that the final product will work properly upon release, there are rarely, if any, betas for Single Players. No love here.
There is much to think about and speculate as to why the demo seems to be a lost art in console gaming. Before we depart, I would like for you, and any developer or publisher that reads this article, to not only examine the who, what, where, and why, but also the pros and possible cons surrounding Free Demos. If your brain waves aren’t already flowing, I think you’ll agree that this subject is worth your attention after looking at the pros.
Pros and Cons from a Developer and Publisher standpoint:
- Pro – A Free Demo brings attention to a game that may not have previously been in a consumer’s vision. Example for me is the upcoming King of Fighters XIV. I had no idea this game was even a thing until they released a Free Demo for it. Free Demo – Great way to promote.
- Con – Only real Con in my opinion is a Free Demo may allow a consumer to see just how lackluster a developer’s game really is. This has too much of a possibility of alerting the populous of the upcoming mediocrity and would cut into their potential sales big time. Let’s face it: how can we expect publishers and developers to release a demo when they aren’t even releasing full games this generation.
Pros from a Consumer standpoint:
- The main and only pro really worth mentioning is the fact that with the offering of a Free Demo the consumer could try before they spend their hard earned money on a game! This would allow for the consumer to make an informed decision on their own without having to rely on reviews or YouTube and Twitch personalities to tell them if a game may be good or not. True, a demo will not give you the full picture, but would definitely give you sufficient measurement of what you may be getting yourself into.
In conclusion, I see no real reason why more developers and publishers do not offer Free Demos. This would require a little more effort on their end, but if you are putting together a quality product, you have nothing but gain to look forward to for your extra efforts. In this golden age of gaming, where just about every game is available digitally and the digital push is stronger than ever, the free demo should be something that is more prevalent as it is easier than ever to provide. It is time for publishers and developers to think outside the box, be more open and honest on what they are selling us, and, ultimately, become more consumer friendly.
Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments below. Do you agree or disagree with the points made in this article? – Your feedback is always welcome. And as always, stay tuned for more of our thoughts and opinions on all things gaming right here at TiCGN.