How important are game demos to you?

2 min read


I like demos. They give me a small taste of what I can expect from a game without having to shell out any cash. But sometimes, instead of leaving you wanting more,   they can create a false impression of game and turn you right off the prospect of purchasing. It seems demos do more harm than good – and games with demos end up selling worse than those marketed via trailer alone.

"You mean we spent all this money making a demo and getting it out there, and it cut our sales in half?" said Puzzle Clubhouse CEO and analyst Jesse Schell in a bit of hypothetical pantomime (via Eurogamer)  "Yes, that’s exactly what happened to you."

His claim is based on research on cumulative game sales on the 360, from EEDAR and other sources. That research says that games marketed without  a demo or a trailer sold less than 100,000 units on average; those with just a demo sold about 200,000, those with both a demo and a trailer managed around 250,000, and those that were only marketed with  a trailer sold half a million copies.

"People see the trailer and they’re like ‘that’s cool!’ and they made a plan. ‘I gotta try that game!’" said Schell. "And then when they play the demo [and they think] ‘alright I’ve tried that game. That was cool. I’m done.’ But the things with no demo, you’ve got to buy it if you want to try it."

I posit that that’s not quite the case; instead, I think bad games with demos fail to do well – while great games, demo or not will do just fine. But what do you think? Do you value demos, or are they more likely to get you to not buy games?

Last Updated: February 12, 2013

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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