Game Dev Claims Demos Hurt Game Sales

 Pages 1 2 3 4 5 6 NEXT
 

Game Dev Claims Demos Hurt Game Sales

The Art of Game Design author Jesse Schell says releasing a demo for a videogame can cut its sales in half.

Oldsters like me will remember something called "shareware" which, simply put, provided people with limited access to a game and gave them the opportunity to pay if they wanted to play the whole thing. It's a system that made the guys at Id Software very rich, but you don't hear much about shareware or game demos anymore, despite their near-ubiquity back in the day.

Jesse Schell, the author of The Art of Game Design and CEO of "crowd-designed" game company Puzzle Clubhouse, may have some insight into why. Speaking at DICE 2013, Schell claimed that releasing a demo actually has a very powerful negative impact on a game's sales because they provide gamers with an avenue to sate their curiosity without having to actually spend any money.

Citing EEDAR data on cumulative Xbox 360 unit sales over a six-month period, Schell demonstrated that games with a demo and a trailer sold roughly half as many copies as those with a trailer but no demo. "You mean we spent all this money making a demo and getting it out there, and it cut our sales in half?" he asked during his presentation. (The relevant bit starts at the 10:00 mark.)

"Yes, that's exactly what happened to you," he continued, answering his own rhetorical question. "Because when you put the demo out, people have seen the trailer and they're like, 'That's cool... I gotta try that game.' And then when they've played the demo [they think], 'Alright, I've tried that game, that was okay, alright, I'm done.' But the things with no demo, you've gotta buy it if you want to try it."

It is perhaps not the most gamer-friendly way to look at things and he also rather obviously overlooks one of the most common rationalizations for piracy, the oft-heard claim that it allows potential customers to "try before they buy." But from a business perspective - and like it or not, this is a business - it also proves the inherent fallacy in the statement by showing that piracy, even when used as a channel for unofficial demos, has a negative impact on game sales. It's easy to claim you wouldn't have purchased a game anyway when you've already played it, after all. But is it "right" that game publishers should so brazenly exploit the curiosity of gamers? Schell may have numbers on his side, but I suspect that not everyone will agree with him.

Source: Variety (YouTube)

Permalink

I find that very interesting. I'm sure many of the comments here will be 'Well, then those games sucked anyway', but I think Schell has made an important point, especially with the EEDAR numbers on his side.

Games that focus on gameplay could very well be hurt by demos because...gameplay is gameplay. You play it, you've already experienced what it has to offer, and then that's it.

Games that focus on narrative don't lend themselves very well to demos because while a demo might peak your interest in the story, they'd likely be giving you information that is wholly out of context and therefore is non-sensible, or a spoiler- in which case, that would also hurt the game because it's ruining it's own focus.

I'm pretty certain that adding a demo only hurts your game if your game sucks.

When I go to the bookstore, I read the first chapter or so (or more, depending) before I buy, and if I don't like what I see, then I don't buy the book. My attitude with games is pretty much the same.

He uses a chart that shows sales figures of games with trailers against games with trailers and demo's.
The Games with only trailers sell twice as much as the one's with the demo's and trailers.

However AAA titles already know they don't need demo's so are just showing trailers. And thus AAA titles sell a lot more anyway.
I don't remember playing an Assassins Creed 3 demo on my console for instance. And some of the best selling games of last year included mass effect 3 and Fifa and they had demo's.

I remember hearing something about this, that out of 9 possible scenarios (made up with 3 levels of demo quality ad 3 levels of game quality) that only 2 out of those 9 possibilities will actually lead into increased sales (a terrible game with an amazing demo, and an okay game with an amazing demo) Every other combination either results in no noticeable increase or, in other cases, a decrease in sales.

And to be fair, I can't think of the last time that the demo alone made me want to buy a game. I either was going to get it anyways, in which case the demo just sates my appetite, or it actually turns me off wanting to get the game.

Ah, someone has been watching Extra Creditz, haven't they?

http://www.penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/demo-daze

The_Great_Galendo:
I'm pretty certain that adding a demo only hurts your game if your game sucks.[...]

My thoughts exactly.
I mean, I would think twice before buying a game if the demo sucked.

CAPTCHA: evil genius
HOW did they find out? >:O
Okay, I have to go. Go now.

So his entire argument boils down to "We need to get the money from the sheep before they realize it's a piece of shit".

Bob was right. The DICE speakers are almost entirely pretentious assholes.

saintdane05:
Ah, someone has been watching Extra Creditz, haven't they?

http://www.penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/demo-daze

haha thank you for posting this i couldnt for the life of me remember where i heard others talking about how bad it is

I've bought a few indie games just because of the demos. Dungeon Defenders is the only one I can think of where the demo made me not want to buy it. Well, and Heavy Rain, but Heavy Rain already looked like crap and I just played the demo to make sure it was crap.

He's specifically talking to developers and publishers that create mediocre titles as their means for profit.
This doesn't apply to solid titles :)

If I decided not to buy the game after playing the demo, it's because the demo didn't impress me. A good demo usually entices me to buy the full version.

Interesting point... but I find it odd when demos (and more recently, closed/open betas) were such an important feature of my gaming life.

I got a demo of Metal Gear Solid in a PS1 magazine, played it, played it again, went out and bought the game the next day.

Half Life 2's Ravenholm demo had a similar effect on me. MGS in particular I wouldn't have bought without the demo, I was a Quake freak at the time, a third person-not-shooting-everything game didn't appeal no matter how good the reviews.

Eternal_Lament:
I remember hearing something about this, that out of 9 possible scenarios (made up with 3 levels of demo quality ad 3 levels of game quality) that only 2 out of those 9 possibilities will actually lead into increased sales (a terrible game with an amazing demo, and an okay game with an amazing demo) Every other combination either results in no noticeable increase or, in other cases, a decrease in sales.

And to be fair, I can't think of the last time that the demo alone made me want to buy a game. I either was going to get it anyways, in which case the demo just sates my appetite, or it actually turns me off wanting to get the game.

Well, these are both interesting arguments, but I'd bet that, at the very least, an amazing game with an amazing demo would also increase sales (by giving more people the opportunity to get hooked on it). I also suspect that an okay demo would increase sales for a terrible game. I don't know if an okay demo for an okay game would help or hurt; on the one hand, more possible exposure, but on the other hand, less hype. I'm not the sort of person that buys into hype, so for me I know which scenario is more probable, but I can't speak for the majority of my fellow citizens.

Still, upon reflection, both arguments seem to boil down to the advice "don't release a demo that's worse than your game".

I think we can come to a reasonable compromise, between game developers and their audience: encourage the sale of used games and rentals.

I know that I would have never purchased Fallout 1 with my limited budget, if not for its fantastic one town demo.

It's hard to quantify how many people buy a game because of a demo, and it's also hard to determine what scope the demo should portray to draw sales. Some demos give too much, some are tedious, and some are broken - all things that will disincline people to purchase the full game.

Well we say a bad demo means a bad game. Although, I thought the demo for Spec Ops: the line was pretty boring...and then everyone gave it a best game of the year nod.

So... Yeah, buy a demo and check the reviews to see if offers more than the demo showed you.

I love how everyone focuses on this one comment section of the guy's 20 minute speech. How about the part where he explains that 3D gaming is a "fad" that "rich geeks" will have, but it's not something people want on a daily basis? Or how about the part where he explains to companies to stop nickle-and-dimeing customers and just sell a full, enjoyable product at a single price? Or, another great part that he explains, is how Free-2-Play is not the way to get customers because of the skepticism by customers based on their mental perception of not receiving a full product?

P.S. However, to talk slightly about this guy's "demo opinion", I'll state that I was considering buying the PC version of Crysis 3 until I tried the Open Beta/Demo....now, I've tried it and have moved on to better things without purchasing.

You expect me to drop 60USD on a game without anything but METACRITIC to back it up?

What...are you retarded...or high...or highly retard?

He is telling the truth, but it's not like I should care about it, as a customer. If I can pressure a company into releasing a demo, than by all means I will, so I will risk less when I decide if I should buy a game or not.

This also tells me nothing on how many established brands had demos, compared to new IPs (established series will sell more, regardless of demos, usually. Also, people are more wary of new brands, so they will evaluate more closely the demo).

Bottom line is, this tells me very little about the situation, and it also means nothing to me, because it isn't about giving me a better service, but is about trying to get as much money as possible out of my pockets, so it's something I should probably be against as a matter of principle in the first place.

Cut demo's? Then expect piracy to go up. Because that's the only way people will be able to try before they buy. Smooth thinking, there.

He's not wrong on the demo part, and to be fair forcing a development team to make a functional demo can impact the quality of both the demo and the final product. It also doesn't help that demos often don't even compare to the final product. I think the only demo I ever played that represented the actual release game accurately was Earth Worm Jim and Jazz Jackrabbit...

I realize what the studies show in terms of all games in general, but I would be interested to see it if they broke it down in terms of development size/budget. My guess is that this largely holds true for big title releases but not so much for smaller indie games.

Most of the smaller games I have purchases came as a direct result of some demo play. In fact, these days, I think a largest chunk of my overall gaming expenditure is based on these types of purchases.

Ah the moral bastions of the world that are game developers. Why make a good game when you can just exploit people in to trying something blindly.

Hey buddy, if you're game isn't shit and people play the demo, they'll buy it.

Andy Chalk:
Citing EEDAR data on cumulative Xbox 360 unit sales over a six-month period, Schell demonstrated that games with a demo and a trailer sold roughly half as many copies as those with a trailer but no demo. "You mean we spent all this money making a demo and getting it out there, and it cut our sales in half?" he asked during his presentation. (The relevant bit starts at the 10:00 mark.)

"Yes, that's exactly what happened to you," he continued, answering his own rhetorical question. "Because when you put the demo out, people have seen the trailer and they're like, 'That's cool... I gotta try that game.' And then when they've played the demo [they think], 'Alright, I've tried that game, that was okay, alright, I'm done.' But the things with no demo, you've gotta buy it if you want to try it."

I don't know what the environment is like on consoles, but speaking as a PC gamer, if I don't know for a fact that your game performs sufficiently well on my PC, then the odds of me buying said game drastically go down.

Case in point: just last week I bought Sleeping Dogs, after playing the demo for it. Had I not played the demo, and therefore not know if the game performs well on my PC, I certainly wouldn't have purchased it.

I wouldn't of gotten Fire Emblem Awakening without the demo.

I think the best thing you can do with a demo is make something that isn't relevant at all to the main story. Make a big room where a character can go around and do things you can do in game. That's all you really need.

Though I can see why no one would do this as you give away demos for free and making something that's not part of the game is technically wasted.

Tanis:
You expect me to drop 60USD on a game without anything but METACRITIC to back it up?

What...are you retarded...or high...or highly retard?

this also

All the best games were shareware, Jazz Jackrabbit, I'm looking at you.

If only people had 60 dollars to drop on every single game, including the ones they aren't sure about.

While I'm fantasizing, I also want a unicorn pegasus, a roller coaster in the backyard, a machine that creates packs of fully cooked bacon bits out of thin air, an x-wing, and a real life version of a cheat console.

Sadly, I don't live in the land where money grows on trees, so excuse fuckin' me for wanting to know the kind of game I'm in for before I purchase it.

odd, the fact that there is no demo for strike suit zero made damn sure I didn't want to buy it.

mean while the demo for mount and blade got me hooked on the games before I had even got them.

This is a load of bias horse crap, you can't just put out a 60 dollar game and expect people to buy it on blind freaking faith, especially when putting it out on PC where some devs don't give a rats ass and just drop an un-optimized pile of garbage out that you CAN'T RETURN.

Here's a thought, make a good game and don't worry about that demo scaring away potential customers. Or don't be scumbags and lie in your demo how the game will play. I was pretty set on buying Brutal Legend figuring it as a beat-em-up only to find out it was a RTS sort of game in disguise. Well that sorta made me not want to buy the game just out of anger of basically being LIED to.

Drop demos and you'll probably see rentals skyrocket and then these 4-5 hour games that cost $60 bucks be beat in one shot and returned to redbox or gamefly or whatever, or you know everyone will just pirate the game they don't feel like chancing.

Stopped me from flushing 60 bucks down the drain on Dead Space 3, however I'm inclined to spend that money on the new Metal Gear game Platinum was working on. Its sad when Metal Gear does strategic dismemberment better than Dead Space...

Random Argument Man:
Well we say a bad demo means a bad game. Although, I thought the demo for Spec Ops: the line was pretty boring...and then everyone gave it a best game of the year nod.

The Line is a good example of a game that I think it would be impossible to create a good demo for, and maybe you shouldn't. The gameplay is nothing spectacular, and the crucial plot element necessarily takes hours and hours to unfold. Plus if you give that away you've somewhat neutered the game.

Then there's the deliberately dishonest demo - like Brutal Legend.

The reason it worked for iD is because their games are awesome and people really liked the first episode of their games so it got them motivated to buy the full version.

It did for me, and demos still do that for me to this day. If it weren't for Falcom releasing a demo for Ys Origin, i wouldn't have bought it and i would have missed out on the best game i played all year.

Demos i still think have good potential for increasing sales and possibly lowering piracy by a small amount. However a lot of games do suck and probably would suffer from having a demo because it wouldn't get people MORE interested in the game, it would just let people know for FREE that the game sucks.

I believe that a good game, with a good demo will have no negative effects on the income of the game. However creating a good demo is something entirely different than creating a good game. there have been bad demo's out there that made good games look worse than they really are. though it's probably possible to have the opposite effect as well, a mediocre game showcasing a decent demo.

i think the trick is to invoke more curiosity with the demo and get people more excited than if they knew less about it. something that's difficult to do but not impossible. Ultimately i think it comes down to the quality and uniqueness of the game/demo in the end.

If a demo is enough to sate your curiosity enough that you don't want to play it more, it's not the demo that's the problem.

So THAT's why game sales are down, all those darn demos they keep releasing.

OH WAIT!

 Pages 1 2 3 4 5 6 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here