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The Demo Is Dead, Long Live The Demo

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Something I have been meaning to do an editorial about for a while is game demo's, spurred on by PuppyGames blog posts on it (here and here) about them not supplying demo's for any of their games.

They make some interesting points mostly because they are talking about themselves and how demo's just didn't work for them.
QuoteThis formula was: offer a demo, and convert demo players into customers by having amazing demos (and, as a secondary, offer a money back guarantee just in case a customer mysteriously wasn’t satisfied). All you need is a large enough influx of traffic downloading a large enough number of demo’s and a large enough conversion rate. Simple! And this we have done, for the last 10 years.

To cut a long story short, it doesn’t work for us.

Today, none of our games have a demo, and they probably never will have again, either. The Demo is dead.


Now I understand how times have changed since we have video's that can show you more than a demo could, after all you can skip to different parts of a video and see if you find it interesting or not. Sadly though I do disagree with them and not providing any demo's because how else are you supposed to check if a game will actually work on your system? Especially on Linux as even when using the same Distribution we may have slightly different configurations and the game may flat out just not work, a video cannot show you this (after all most videos will probably be of the game on Windows).

Also you need to take into account services like Steam, they seem to only offer a one time customer service gesture refund if you aren't happy with your purchase (or accidental purchase in my case of a whole bundle of games before), so if the game doesn't work on your system or it is full of bugs the developer isn't going to fix then you may be flat out of luck as you didn't get a demo to test it so that's your hard earned money wasted isn't it?

It does seem to be working for them though:
QuoteThere’s no harm in being wrong. We can be wrong. We’re going on what the data tells us, and we have a lot of data. We’ve sold 481,529 games in the last 3 years, and 30,246 of those have been to people who played a demo. That means the other 451,283 sales were made without anyone ever seeing a demo. If you want percentages, that’s 6%. We’re quite happy to be proved wrong! If the data tells us we’re wrong, we’ll go back to using demo’s.

The problem is that if you want to test it without a demo what choice do you have? You buy it. So it's no wonder it is working for them.

Personally I do buy plenty of games that don't have a Demo so maybe they are right, I do always prefer to have a Demo first and If I like the game I do tend to buy it.

What are your thoughts faithful GOL readers? Do you think demo's aren't needed or like me do you think they will always have a place?

Also to make this a point, I am a fan of puppygames (especially Revenge of the Titans) this is a general editorial not an invitation for anyone to bash them. Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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24 comments
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Mike Frett 8 August 2013 at 10:17 am UTC
The thing is, some Demos are so good, that I'm actually satisfied enough not to bother with buying the Game. I agree with the guy to be honest, sometimes the Demo is good enough for a few minutes of fun everyday.

People are generally busy and want something short and to the point anyway. I play Civ2 in Wine quite a bit, I've been playing the SAME Game, for the past 10 years, off and on. There was a story awhile back about a guy playing the same game he created in Civ2 for many years also.
n30p1r4t3 8 August 2013 at 10:49 am UTC
I myself have never played a demo. And I agree that the demo is dying if not dead already.
tiger 8 August 2013 at 11:32 am UTC
Demo is a must. I've purchased lots of games with bad metacritics because I tried the demos and liked them.

One example is Space Pirates and Zombies. Critics rated it like a boring game, that takes ages to finish and such things. Tried the demo and bought it immediately. Incredibly fun game, lots of replayability.

I bought Revenge of the Titans (puppygames) after looking it on youtube. No demo. Played some maps and got bored to death. Wasted money for me. I've refrained from buying more puppy games until they release a demo for them.
Edgar 8 August 2013 at 12:14 pm UTC
Probably a silly question, but howdo they know if the customer played a demo or not?
n30p1r4t3 8 August 2013 at 1:14 pm UTC
EdgarProbably a silly question, but howdo they know if the customer played a demo or not?

The only thing that comes to mind is number of downloads. And if the demo is on Steam, the number of downloads there etc.
Erin 8 August 2013 at 1:28 pm UTC
I've been burned too many times with games not running on my system that I don't buy games--unless they are ridiculously cheap--without a demo. Hell, even just a three-minute "trailer" of sorts would be fine. I want to know that I can actually install the game and at least start it up without it immediately segfaulting or complaining that I need to install some dependency that I don't have access to. I've also run into issues with a lot of games just running so poorly on my system that it's not worth it, because they're slow or jumpy or whatever. Any developer who wants to release games on Linux without any sort of demo needs to have a policy where you can get a refund if you can demonstrate that you're unable to play it (screenshots, for example).
Lord Avallon 8 August 2013 at 1:33 pm UTC
Well I used to play demos in the past, when the internet wasn´t there yet, it was interesting to see an article about a game on a magazine and have the oportunity to try it, I bought various games because of the demo (like The Dig, Full Throttle, The Curse of Monkey Island and others) but nowadays I really don´t use them, with the trailers and gameplays videos you can have a good idea of the game, I have done this and it works for me (I bough Revenge of the Titans, Sword & Sworcery, S.P.A.Z. and others and liked them a lot), when the game doesn´t run or if in case I have problems I keep in touch with the devs and get everything resolved.
Mohandevir 8 August 2013 at 3:28 pm UTC
The new trend is "Free to Play". Isn't it some kind of Demo?
Nya 8 August 2013 at 6:01 pm UTC
More demos, please. I'm reluctant to spend money if I don't know that the game will actually work on my computer. I'm not sure I'd ever have gotten anything from the Puppy Games catalogue besides Revenge (which was only due to HIB) if it wasn't for the demos. Personally, the sort of game where I could be satisfied by just playing the demo isn't the sort of game I'm looking to buy. I don't wish to accuse PG of unsavory business practices, but it's not a huge stretch to conclude that sort of transaction doesn't benefit the customer - I give you money and then play an unsatisfying game for five minutes. Puppy are British, I think. Therefore we sing: "no income tax, no VAT / no money back, no guarantee".
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