Are Video Game Demos Going Extinct?

It’s time to get a little nostalgic up in this bee-atch. Who here remembers when video games had playable demos before being released? Wasn’t that the norm? You’d buy a magazine and on the cover would be a CD (or floppy disk if you’re going back even further) containing an array of game demonstrations.


You’d install or load up the ones you were interested in and you could physically see roughly what the full game was going to look and play like when it was released.


So what happened? Why are video game demos becoming a rarity in our digitally-obsessed culture? Other than official trailers and trailers, when it comes to new games, we don’t really have much basis to go on other than the developer’s word.


Without a demo to give us first-hand experience, it’s difficult to form our own opinion early on. Surely this is only harming the industry.


The Experts Have Spoken


Well according to this report from a couple of years ago, game demos are actually harming sales, in some instances cutting them in half. It costs money to make a demo and if people don’t like what’s on offer, they’re not going to buy the full game are they?


We buy demos so we can see what the final product will look like. So if the demo is bad, we won’t fork out. This seems to make sense (and in my eyes, the reason why demos are important for any developer), but I think the fault seems to lie partly with the developers rather than the medium itself.


Recently gamers have had major reason to find fault with the industry when they’re not only paying full price for a game that’s poorly made, but is actually unfinished. Take Assassin’s Creed Unity as an example. A game that was unanimously slammed by fans and critics alike for its shaky game mechanics and notable bugs.


And this is where a demo would prevent all this. Having a playable teaser of the game forces studios to put more effort into a product to make it look polished before it gets launched.


The other point the above article makes is that making a game demo can cost a lot of money. While this may be true, it’s important to note that many indie teams are more than prepared to make a demo of their game before releasing the finished title.


Studios such as Frictional Games (Amnesia: The Dark Descent) and Suspicious Developments (Gunpoint) have released demonstrations of their games in the past. Even Mojang have a demo available for their most popular game, Minecraft (perhaps you’ve heard of it). Yes, they may be big now, but the demo has been available from the very start.


So if cost is the issue, why are small teams able to do it? Okay the games themselves are not as costly to make overall, but I can’t get behind the mentality of a studio that is more than capable of spending millions on a popular franchise but won’t let us try a sneak peak first.


Whatever their reasons, the fact that studios aren’t willing to give us an interactive taste of their games speaks volumes about how much faith they have in their product. Maybe it’s the fault of the publisher, but that’s a different argument for another day.


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