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Game Demos Key to Game Purchases 77

GameDailyBiz is carrying a story looking at the importance of demoing a game before purchase, a factor apparently crucial in game buying decisions for many gamers. The NPD research found that demoing a game was even more important than the price of the game, when buying a title for yourself. Price was the ultimate deciding factor in game purchasing for gifts, however. From the article: "This kind of finding could be particularly important to publishers trying to determine the best way to divide up their marketing spend. Perhaps publishers would be better off putting more resources into providing gamers with a high-quality demo instead of investing heavily in a huge ad campaign. With in-store kiosks, Xbox Live Marketplace and the online features of the soon-to-be-launched PlayStation 3 and Wii, it's becoming easier than ever for publishers to distribute their game demos directly to the audience they're after."
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Game Demos Key to Game Purchases

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  • WTF (Score:5, Funny)

    by Who235 ( 959706 ) <`secretagentx9' `at' `'> on Thursday October 26, 2006 @02:27PM (#16597620)
    This kind of finding could be particularly important to publishers trying to determine the best way to divide up their marketing spend.

    When did "spend" become a noun?
    • Probably around the same time that businesses started trying to ensure that they were synergizing their expenditures

      I was tempted to say "seriously though...." to start this new para, but then I realized that using phrases like that is now so common that no one would "get the joke" .... ... I don't even remember what I really wanted to say now :-(

      • Hey, I remembered...

        I've got some anecdotal evidence (since that passes for research around here) that supports the assertion of the OP. I bought WoW a little over a year ago. My girlfriend, also a gamer, said that she would never play that game, and that it looked kinda stupid. I think she said something like "those MMO's or whatever the hell they're called are for losers... next thing you'll be asking me to start a D&D group or something..."

        So I installed the 10 day trial game on her PC... she bough

        • Sounds familar; I installed the WOW demo with no intention of buying it (I was actually subscribed to another MMO game at the time, City of Heroes). Cue me, after 2 weeks, searching local shops for a copy, not patient enough to buy it online.

    • When did "spend" become a noun?

      The same time that the marketing, advertising and media industries sprung into existence. I'm in advertising, and it is a commonly used term to quickly refer to the amount of money someone has spent on a buy (short for a media buy). Bet you didn't know "buy" was a noun either!

      In proper english your assumption would be correct, but this is industry jargon so it is the exception.

    • When did "spend" become a noun?

      Marketers noun language.

    • by Alsee ( 515537 )
      When did "spend" become a noun?

      The same time verbs were nouned and adjectives were verbed, as in:
      Verbing nouns weirds the language.

  • I haven't played a game demo in probably 10 years, and yet I buy a couple a month. I do however read up on the premise before making a purchase.

    I wonder what this says about me.
    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      How often does a game you buy turn out to be crap, especially if it's evident in the first 5 minutse that the game is crap?
    • I wonder what this says about me.

      It says you have a lot of disposable income.

    • by Fozzyuw ( 950608 )

      do however read up on [the game]

      I enjoy playing a demo at a store if I see one, but usually they're so bloody annoying to actaully get into a demo to play I give up before I make it past all the info. screens.

      I have 3 factors that will determine a game purchase...

        1. Price
        1. excitement (is it a game/title I'm a fan of?)
        1. Review Score

      I usually check the review on for their score. Anything that's a 9/10 or higher is pretty much sold in my book if it meets the other two criteria well enough. Anythi

    • The last time in recent memory that I bought a game based on a demo was Zuma Deluxe. And really, the demos for these PopCap and ReflexiveArcade games are the the full version that expires after a set amount of time, usually an hour or 30 minutes. I think that's pure genius in marketing, since their games are often something that you might get incredibly addicted to within 1 hour of gameplay, and then never touch again after 5 (Though I still fire up Zuma Deluxe once in a while to see if I can beat that la
  • For games, I usually read reviews and impulse buy a lot of crap I never play. Demos have sometimes worked in the past, but it's not really a major factor.

    But, the principle works for me for music. I won't buy stuff that I don't know if I will like (unless it is very cheap, then I tend to add a few extra discs for a couple bucks to an order, if descriptions sound decent - but so far I haven't found any good music this way).
  • I have never played a game demo for a console game. I've seen a few floating aroudn the the PS2, but none for any games I'm interested in. I usually rely on multiple online reviews and/or message boards.

    For the PC .. sure I try out "demos". My good friend 'oosenet-ay' helps me out there. I've found that most commercially release PC games are in fact demos - in that the full functionality won't come out until 2 or 3 patches have been released and you can finally play the game without bugs.
  • Unreliable (Score:4, Insightful)

    by daeg ( 828071 ) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @02:41PM (#16597902)
    Perhaps demo consoles in stores work, but that's only because they give you the full game.

    Downloadable demos are notoriously bad. Game companies hack their game apart to coble to together a demo and shove it out the door. They don't give a crap about bugs, and a demo appears to be a complete afterthought.

    Game studios should plan for a demo in advance. Having some bugs is acceptable, but too many will turn your users away from your game. I played the Caesar IV demo and refuse to buy the full game because of their demo. The installation process was brutal and completely retarded (for instance, I have DirectX 9.0c installed, but their demo installer insisted on uninstalling my DirectX and installing a fresh, unpatched copy of DirectX 9.0c, requiring no less than 3 reboots; it installed the .NET 2.0 framework, again, unpatched, installed an outdated version of MSXML parser, and disassociated my .NET file extensions so .cs files would no longer open in my editor by default).

    Make a good demo and you'll see even better sales figures.
    • Downloadable demos are notoriously bad.

      I'm kind of confused here. Even if most demos are really bad, that wouldn't contradict that the ones that are really good don't sell a lot of games. And even if the demos are bad - that doesn't mean they don't have an impact. That just means that people are being turned off by shoddy demos.

      I personally won't buy a game until I've demoed it or have a friend who knows my very well inform me that I must, in fact, trade my soul to play this game. I probably only buy a
      • by daeg ( 828071 )
        I should have clarified that my post was regarding PC demos, not XBox360 demos (which are generally pretty damn sweet). PC makers seem to use demos to test out their engine and platform choices on consumers instead of doing some good testing themselves.

        Bad games with good demos won't sell, as you point out with the zombie-in-the-mall demo.
  • When the Gamecube came out and was based on an optical disc, one of the first things I thought of was "Oh, cool, they'll put demo discs into Nintendo Power and I will actually subscribe again!" Sadly, it never happened. There was one demo disc I remember that sold and it was awesome - Sonic, Viewtiful Joe, Splinter Cell... I think I would have bought more Gamecube games if I could have had one of those in my hands every month. I'd really like to see this rectified with the Wii. Maybe pressed demo disc
  • When I'm in the market for a new game I go for reviews and then the demos of the well reviewed games. I've bought some games I wouldn't have without the demo (Eve Online, Galactic Civ2) and decided not to buy games that were hyped up but not impressive in the demo.
    • Yes, it only works for good games...but that's like saying "blue litmus paper only works for acid."

      I want a test that only returns positive for good games. That's exactly the metric I'm looking for. If it occasionally returns negative for good games, I can live with it, as long as the number of true positives is high enough that it keeps my game playing habit fed.
  • by squisher ( 212661 ) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @02:50PM (#16598076)
    I used to be a big fan of PC demos that you could get from magazine CDs back in the days or by download these days. But the problem is that while years ago companies cared, they just don't anymore. Isn't it true that today demos often appear AFTER the game is on the market already? Back in the days, doom, decent, even half-life 1 had very nice demos that you could get a real feel for the game before you buy it. Those were nice days...
    • by Necreia ( 954727 )
      If you want to play a demo of today's games, simply download/install a copy of Starforce and stare at web banner ads for a couple hours.
    • We do (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cliffski ( 65094 ) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @03:04PM (#16598338) Homepage
      Forget big retail games, many of their demos are poor, some install starforce, many are just HUGE, and often they have all that unskippable advert logo bollox.
      If you want downloadable game demos, you want indie games. If you can live without cutting edge 3D effects, you will be pleasantly suprised.
      I make a living (just) from selling downlaodable games, so it is absolutely ESSENTIAL for me to put together a good, fun demo that gets people into the game as quickly as possible, with no fuss, no delays.
      To achieve this I make sure that:
      1)the demo is small as it can be
      2)the demo is the exact same code version as the full game. If the demo works fine, the full game does too
      3)the demo starts up asap, with no logo nonsense.
      4)you can *trivially* get my demo, from a direct .exe link on my site. Imagine... no email signup, no pop-up ads, no fileplanet subscriptions, no persuading you to 'subscribe' to geta afster server. Just a direct, reliable, fast demo download, that is getright friendly.

      Its been obvious to me and my fellow devs that making a good demo available is *crucial* to any game that isn't hyped to oblivion. Where I used to work, they relied on hype to sell the games, so made sure they didnt get a demo done in time for release (if at all). Personally, I think gamers deserve to try before they buy.

      Sorry for the long adver-rant, but this is an issue i feel really strongly about. Demos are essential for PC games, and so many companies screw it up.
      • Yeah, it's amazing how most of the "Big business" distributors screw this up, yet how important it is.

        Actually, it's not amazing at all. The "indies" have a strong advantage here, almost to the point of being a market inefficiency, because of the different business models:
        With a "Big House" developer or distributor, marketing is separate from development. A "demo" or "Beta Demo" is a marketing requirement on development. If developers are trying to hold a timeline, that inevitably means that they won't alw
        • Actually, it's not amazing at all. The "indies" have a strong advantage here

          But are the "indies" producing games in the genres that I want? My PC has a TV output and a USB hub that accepts game controllers; where are the four-player PC games that take advantage of them? Where is the indie counterpart to Mario Party, Smash Bros., Bomberman, or WarioWare?

      • 1)the demo is small as it can be

        Are you expecting size optimization to be performed to the extent that it was in .kkrieger [], whose demo is 0.1 MB?

        1)the demo is small as it can be
        2)the demo is the exact same code version as the full game. If the demo works fine, the full game does too

        These requirements can be mutually conflicting. The full game may be optimized for speed, not size. In addition, the full game generally comes on a DVD, and its code includes an installer as well as verification of an auth

        • [1 and 2] can be mutually conflicting. The full game may be optimized for speed, not size. In addition, the full game generally comes on a DVD, and its code includes an installer as well as verification of an authentication token stored on the DVD.

          The only real restriction I see here is extra size from artwork/textures/models/sound/music/levels (assets). The size of the program executable from compiling with "size" vs "speed" is negligible in most cases, for download purposes. If your game is developed

          • Your nonstandard phrasing ("A is B is C is D") makes it difficult to break up quoted text to address each point of your comment.

            If your game is developed sanely, the installer code is separate from the authorization code is separate from the game code is separate from the artwork.

            Copy authentication code that is separate from the game engine is ineffective, as it gives those who would defeat the copy authentication a single point to attack. Effective copy authentication relies on making the obscurity [] r

            • Hmm, interesting points. Let me see if I can answer them one by one.

              I'm still not clear as to why you'd need copy authentication in the demo. If you're using a serial-key based system for online-based authentication (for multiplayer) I don't see why you couldn't just require the serial just for multiplayer. Set up your game so that single player requires no authentication, and multiplayer matchmaking through your server requires one. People with the demo don't get a key, but don't need one. People wh

              • I'm still not clear as to why you'd need copy authentication in the demo.

                If your computer is compatible with everything but the copy authentication, which is often based on bad sectors on the DVD or the Burst Cutting Area or something hardwareish like that, then a computer might be compatible with everything in the game except its copy authentication. Cue stories of people getting no-CD cracks just to make games that use StarForce work.

                Set up your game so that single player requires no authentication


    • Back in the days, doom, decent, even half-life 1 had very nice demos that you could get a real feel for the game before you buy it. Those were nice days...

      I agree that it's nice to get good demos before a game is released, but if it's a choice between a shoddy demo while the game is still in development and a great demo after the game is released, I'll take "after the game is released", please.

      There's really no reason to have to get a game the *day it comes out*, as far as I'm concerned. I routinely buy ol
    • Demos are complete crap now. I won't buy any game until I have had a chance to download, install, and play the full version. If the game gives me more than 15 minutes of enjoyment, then I'll usually buy the full game. 90% of the time, it remains in the box.

      I encourage everyone else to do the same.

      Today, the only demos I d/l and try are those of the indie game companies.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I used to never get demos either, and had mostly good luck with game purchases anyway, from knowing what I wanted. It was just too much hassle to find a download site, go through the Download Now link to another site, go through the Download Immediately link to another site, then sit in line for 30 minutes, before the using the Windows Installer and subsequently uninstaller for a 5-minute demo.

    Xbox Live has however really changed that, it's very much easier and I have actually started downloading every demo
    • I agree, XBOX live has totally changed the demo equation. It's really easy to download them now, and you get to try out the games at your own leisure in your own home (instead of waiting in line at a retail store or something). I think it's especially important for console games since, after all, anyone that wants to "demo" a PC game is just going to torrent it anyway.

      Hopefully press like this will convince MS and developers to spend more time making the demos nicer. I liked the idea of being able to use
      • I agree too. I've downloaded almost all the demos on there for the 360. Kept me from wasting money on a few games for sure. In the case of Test Drive Unlimited it the demo made me run out and buy it the same night.
  • Demo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MeanderingMind ( 884641 ) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @03:00PM (#16598236) Homepage Journal
    Given the largely uninformative nature of reviews these days, the only options left to figure out if a game is any good are as follows:

    1) Try it yourself
    2) Read the box cover and judge from that
    3) Force a brother/friend/slave to buy/rent the game.
    4) Pester the Gamestop people about it incessantly until they ban you from the store for harassment.

    Obviously 1 and 3 are related, while 2 and 4 are suboptimal. Quite simply, I'm far more inclined to buy games I have experience with beforehand. It took me about 5 minutes of actually play to realize I liked Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox, while it can take a day's worth of review and opinion browsing to even get a feel for some of the basic mechanics of a game, let alone finer points.

    Because of that, I really enjoy demoing and renting games first. It's far more time efficient and worthwhile.
  • While some people prefer to try before they buy, there are a heck of a lot more people who buy games strictly on impulse. It's not much different than buying a DVD. No one intentionally goes looking around for five-minute clips of a movie they might be interested in buying before they buy it... they just buy it.

    I was once a huge fan of the demo download stuff on Xbox Live after buying my Xbox 360, but I've learned over the months that the downloadable demos are rarely representative of the final product. Th
    • No one intentionally goes looking around for five-minute clips of a movie they might be interested in buying before they buy it... they just buy it.

      That's because of a magical invention we like to call a "movie trailer". And you know, they make those trailers before movies are completely finished with production as well. So maybe dev/publishers could get their act together to get some demos out there with polish similar to what you see with trailers.

      In any case - who juts goes out and buys DVDs they've ne
      • In any case - who juts goes out and buys DVDs they've never seen on impulse? Let me guess - you're not married, or at least certainly don't have kids.

        A lot of parents by DVDs on impulse. Specifically they buy G-rated DVDs, especially those distributed by The Walt Disney Company, to let them use the television as a surrogate babysitter.

        • Ugh! That even worse - so much worse - than just random conspicuous consumption! You're absolutely right, of course, it's just that that's not something my wife and I are very keen on. We prefer the kind of babysitter you pay. Well, technically, family is best 'cause you don't have to pay them, but you get the point.

    • To some extent, demos are important to a key few individuals. But claiming that demos are vital to the entire market is complete rubbish

      Then I suggest you go and fund a study to see if you can find evidence for your claim. When comparing a study of 12,100 video game purchasers to your personal buying-habits anecdote, you'll forgive me if I weight the sample size of 12,100 more heavily than I do the sample size of 1.

      When you're talking about a $60 purchase, it's not a terribly surprising result to find that
    • Ok, maybe I need to be a bit more specific on this... demos are not important in terms of game console users.

      For years, computer users have had the option to download demos of games right onto their hard drive for evaluation before purchase. But as for game consoles, this is an entirely new concept. People who buy game consoles demand convenience in their gaming experience. Very few people I know would knowingly walking up to their game console, pop in a demo game disc just to get five or ten minutes of use
      • Very few people I know would knowingly walking up to their game console, pop in a demo game disc just to get five or ten minutes of use out of it.

        Then have each publisher put demos of, say, all its 2006 titles on its 2007 demo disc. I seem to remember a disc distributed with the original PlayStation that had playable demos for ten games on it.

  • I wish that mobile phone service providers would realize this.

    I don't know what other carriers are like, but Verizon has very, very few games offered through Get It Now that have demos. No way am I going to pay $10 for a game I've not seen nor heard of before. This is the reason I have never bought any games on Get It Now (beside the fact that they are all super expensive and I'd rather blow my cash on real computer games).
    • I wish that mobile phone service providers would realize this. [...] No way am I going to pay $10 for a game I've not seen nor heard of before.

      I'll second that emotion. I just got a phone from T-Mobile, and it has a demo version of something called Midnight Pool []. You can play up until someone's cleared everything but the 8-ball. The full version costs $5.99, and I'm seriously considering it. But there's no way you'd have convinced me to spend six bucks on a mobile phone game that may or may not work. M
  • What is a good game for my Logitech Extreme 3D pro. I never use it because there don't seem to be a lot of games that make sense of joystick anymore. Flying, spaceships, cars. All I play now is Urban Terror and games that use mouse & AWSD.

    Tell me some good demos!
  • by spyrochaete ( 707033 ) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @03:16PM (#16598554) Homepage Journal
    I often play a demo or a "demo" (wink nudge) before purchasing a game, but it's a little frustrating when many demos these days exceed 1GB or even 1.5GB! That's a lot of time spent downloading to play a 20-minute demo. I don't mind the download times, really, but how about some more substantial demos?

    I got antsy and bought Just Cause for PC last week. Oops. If I'd tried a demo (does one exist) I'd know it was an unpolished POS.
    • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
      I totally agree with trying the demo, and that they aren't substantial enough a lot of times. If I'm unsure about a console game, I rent it from GameFly, and if I'm unsure about a PC game, I try a "demo". I've actually bought quite a few games after "demo"ing them, but there's been quite a few more than I deleted after an hour and thought "Holy crap, I'm glad I didn't buy that."

      I've been bit on buying games just too many times. I bought PSU today, knowing that it'd just be PSO with a little extra, and it
  • Of course game demos is an essential method of getting purchases. It worked for the shareware version of Doom, Quake, and the whole slew of games in ~1990-1995.

    It's also the reason the "demo" levels tend to be the most polished in the full versions of the game - it's been tested heavily by the users that point out every single flaw in the map/whatever. Compare this to the "final" levels in the retail, which appear to be rushed in order to meet some deadline.

    The last game I purchased was Shadowgrounds - ba
  • Since most Mac games are ports, you never know what the quality of the port is going to be like, or if it's going to run on your system. I was mildly interested in Deus Ex when it came out, but the demo definitely got me hooked. Same for Unreal Tournament. The demo for NWN actually discouraged me from buying it. Now, with more recent titles, like Civilization IV, Quake IV and World of Warcraft, you definitely need to try before you buy, unless you have a high-end system. When it comes to buying games, there
  • Demos are fantastic, and after getting to know and love them on the 360, I'm quite certain the Wii and the PS3 will get fewer purchases from me if they don't make acquiring demos as easy and cheap (free) as Live! does.

    Several posters have mentioned that demos are often buggy, and not representative of the final product. This may be true, but it really doesn't matter.

    In the first place, since the article is proposing that good demos sell games, I don't see how bad demos really counter the assertion.

    In the se
  • GameDailyBiz is carrying a story looking at the importance of demoing a game before purchase, a factor apparently crucial in game buying decisions for many gamers.

    ZOMG!!! Who'da thunk it?

    Seriously, are media execs so ignorant of the real world that something like this is big news?

    Hey, game industry execs! Here are a few other apparently crucial factors in game buying decisions:

    • Reasonable price
    • Works properly (i.e. few bugs)
    • Is fun to play
    • Doesn't contain spyware, etc.
    • Hey, slashdot Nerd!!

      * Reasonable price - Wrong
      * Works properly (i.e. few bugs) - Wrong
      * Is fun to play - Wrong
      * Doesn't contain spyware, etc. - Wrong

      From the actual Sales Data []
      The crucial factors are:
      * Famous brand
      * Sequel
      * If possible BOTH
      * Make a poor ripoff of a good game and add more violence and vulger language
      • Hey, slashdot Nerd!!

        Let's see if I can make a response appropriate to your level of debate...

        Hey <noun insult>!

        <whatever you said> - Wrong

        Here's why []

  • by garylian ( 870843 ) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @03:55PM (#16599308)
    Demos are ok, but you really are only seeing a snippet of a game, and have no idea how good or bad it really is. Also, you have to have a really strong broadband connection to download it. The Battlefield 2142 download took a heck of a long time, and I have a 15Mb/s down fiber optic line. I didn't even download it on its first available date, too.

    The problem with demos is it is the only really clean piece of code the game company will release, including its Gold image. They want to wow the customer, so they make that a really tightly QA'd portion of the game. You play it, and think "this is really tight! The gameplay was fast, fun, and I bet the rest of the game is the same way". And it often isn't. Especially since many development shops leave critical bugs in the game to foil the pirates that want to have the orignal disc image. Nothing like a zero-day patch to spoil any pirates!

    So, the demo may be clean, but the rest of the game could be buggy as hell, requiring multiple patches to make it run smoothly for even the most common of system setups.

    Anyone that plays a demo just needs to remember that what they are playing is probably tbe cream of the work done for that project.
  • Demos are great for the consumer, and I fully agree that we need more of them, however, for the business it may not be so helpful in some cases. A game that is fun, but repetitive, often gets boring after a while. A demo of such a game might actually reduce sales. And of course, having a poorly recieved demo in the first place will kill your sales.
  • Spending Surveys (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Databass ( 254179 ) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @04:51PM (#16600382)
    When I register a game from say, publisher Electronic Arts, they ask me "How did you hear about this game?"

    D-Saw it in a games store

    They never ask E-I played the warez version and liked it enough to buy it. If they're not asking about that form of "demo-ing" a game, they'll never be able take into account people who want to try before they buy with the cracked version.
  • I don't care if you've made the best game of the year, I'm not downloading a 1+ GB demo! Waiting several hours to play a demo that may or may not=be good/polished/buggy/have adequate length/hold my interest/work on my computer at all is not cool.
  • Demos don't really have an effect on my game purchasing. If I'm on the fence enough that the demo could swing it one way or the other, it's usually not a good enough game to merit dropping $40.

    Usually when I download a demo it's either to tide me over until a game I'll definitely buy releases (as happened recently with Dawn of War: Dark Crusade), or because I'm bored and want to play something new without having to spend any money. In the first case, I'm already sold on the game anyway. If I'm not exci
  • There is a risk for publishers. If they make the demo really good, it can be more successful than the game itself.

    My example is Unreal Tournament 2004. While it was a successful game, the demo included several very good maps and online modes for them, and to this day there are far more people playing demo than the full version. I'm fairly confident that some of those people would have bought the full version if the demo hadn't been so thoroughly good.

    So there's a tricky judgement to make about how much cont
  • Clearly Nintendo already knows this well; every major video game store has a wireless DS kiosk with free wireless demos. You just connect wireless, pick which one you want and you can play it as much as you want on your own DS until you turn off the power. Even that's not a big restriction, as you can just close the DS to put it in sleep mode, which is very efficient - a DS can sleep for days.

    It's a very nice system, very easy to use and great for consumers. I can't yet say that I've purchased something
  • I remember back in about 1995 I was occasionally buying PC Gamer, and one month they had a feature on Transport Tycoon, a game I'd never heard of. They supplied a demo disk, but I remember tossing it aside because I din't have enough ram to run the game. However, once I upgraded, I plugged in the disk, and was instantly hooked. I've played that game ever since, and it seems I'm not the only one - the game has inspired an entire development community, including the TTDPatch, and OpenTTD.

    I did the same thi

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern