The Importance of Demos

In a time where many of us gamers judge potential game purchases by reading reviews on Metacritic or the video game publication of our choice, I’ve noticed the growing lack of immediate support for demos on our main consoles. We’ve progressed past receiving demo disks in the mail; packed with trailers and excerpts of a handful of choice games that are poised to be out, because next-gen games are so large in size it simply isn’t feasible. Now that I think about it, this was the main way that I decided what game I wanted to buy when I was much younger. While Youtube bridges the gap between reading about a game and actually playing it, nothing beats test-driving a game where you can judge it yourself, devoid of someone else’s insights and opinions which are inherent to reviews.

Back in the day, demos for the hottest titles dropped months or weeks before their release date. This gave ample time for the intrepid gamer to check out a game, and if they liked it enough, they went out to buy it. Now that demos are digitally distributed through avenues like Microsoft’s Xbox Live, Sony’s Playstation Network, or Nintendos Wii Shop Channel, I’d assume these games would be much more available to us all (since most of us have an internet connection, right). Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that demos for a lot of big name titles don’t go up until months after the game’s original release date. Mass Effect 2 as well as both Call of Duty Black Ops and Modern Warfare 2 are guilty of this. It costs a developer a significant amount of money to provide a demo for users to download, but I’m having trouble understanding why the likes of Bioware and Activision respectably took a while to get their latest games out for people to test out before buying.

As an aside, the only reason I ever considered playing Mass Effect 1 and 2 a few months back was entirely due to the fact that Mass Effect 2’s demo was released. If ME2 didn’t have a demo like ME1 didn’t, I’m quite sure I would have never played it at all.

This week saw the release of the demo for El Shaddai, an action adventure title that is said to blend the fighting elements of Devil May Cry, the platforming of Mario, with the visual style of Okami. After reading an article or two about it in a couple magazines, I was pretty excited to see that this game had been uploaded. My interest peaked after watching a gameplay clip followed by an interview with it’s producer. As I grabbed my credit card to renew my Xbox Live Gold subscription after 3 months of inactivity, I knew I was making the right choice. After completing the demo, I didn’t arrive at a definite conclusion about El Shaddai like I had expected. While the demo had brought something fresh to the table, I saw a couple problems that I knew I would be wrestling with if I went to buy the full game. Luckily, El Shaddai doesn’t release until July – people in my situation have will enough time to evaluate the game more, and most importantly, they haven’t missed the boat and are coming into a new game much later than everyone else. Although I’m personally unsure of if I’ll be buying El Shaddai right now, I still have the opportunity to play the demo as many times as I need to until I can answer that age-old question of “Is this game worth spending my hard earned money on?”

I think it’s very important for more games to do what El Shaddai did this week, regardless of if they’re guaranteed to reach astronomic sales like Mass Effect and Call of Duty does regularly. If there’s a demo to speak of, I believe it would be in everyone’s best interest that it should come out before the full game is released, so we can all play through it and decide to take the plunge and buy it, or choose to skip it. If more people are given the chance to support any given game, it’s preliminary sales would increase, as that demographic of gamers who still prefer trying a game themselves before purchasing them would be accounted for.

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2 responses to “The Importance of Demos

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