How important is a demo when buying?

Discussion in 'Commercial Games Discussion' started by Switz, Oct 24, 2019.

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The demo question

  1. Don't care if game looks great, no demo no buy

    1 vote(s)
    5.3%
  2. Game is something I'd play, I'd play demo first

    7 vote(s)
    36.8%
  3. Game looks like something I'd play. It's cheap (-$10), skipping the demo

    11 vote(s)
    57.9%
  1. Switz

    Switz Veteran Veteran

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    How important is a demo to you?

    Considering most RPG Maker games go for under $10, I wouldn't think a demo would see too much interest from the player community to play it. At least that's me anyway.

    So, seeing how all of you feel about them or if you have any data to help weigh in on a demo's importance for your games sales vs demo downloads.

    I think ultimately of you like what you see and read on the store page, and games cheap, you'd buy it so leaving that question out.

    Odds are most demo downloads are from players on the fence about the game. But, no stones unturned so how do you, as a player or developer with some insight on this area feel about a demo? Is it important or not?

    IF YOU SELECT THE 2ND OPTION, AT WHAT PRICE WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO SKIP THE DEMO?
     
    #1
  2. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    It honestly depends on where you sell it. I don't think many Steam customers check demos, but Aldorlea customers want a demo first before buying. No clue on itch.io but I've seen some bigger titles (like Fell Seal) put their demo on itch.io and they were still in the top rated list so I guess many did check it out?

    I'd say it can't hurt to have one anyways. Easy way to make one is just make it the start of your game, and end it at a fixed point.
     
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  3. standardplayer

    standardplayer Keeper of Kitties Veteran

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    I only like demos if I'm following a game, and waiting for it to come out.
    Other than that, I usually don't mess with them. If a game on, say Steam, or the PS Store looks intriguing enough between the title, game image and any available screenshots/videos, then MAYBE I'll look up some more videos, or search very specific questions I might have, taking care to avoid spoilers. If that all goes well, that's how I decide to buy.

    So yeah, I only like demos when I'm looking forward to the game, for sure, and playing it would sate my appetite for the finished product.
     
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  4. Engr. Adiktuzmiko

    Engr. Adiktuzmiko Chemical Engineer, Game Developer, Using BlinkBoy' Veteran

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    I like demos as a player because it helps me decide if a game is something that I would like. Sometimes even after watching a lot of videos about the game, I still find it hard to decide if I should buy, and demos help a lot in that.

    And I especially like it if the demo is like the first part of the game and I can continue playing my progress into the complete game.
     
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  5. Poryg

    Poryg Dark Lord of the Castle of Javascreeps Veteran

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    Most rpg maker games I've bought were through humble bundle, because I wanted to get something different and this was just a side product. But yes, in terms of rpg maker games, no demo, no buy for me, because rpg maker games don't have a bad reputation for no reason.
     
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  6. Parallax Panda

    Parallax Panda Got into VxAce ~2014 and never stopped... Veteran

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    I never play demos, and I don’t think many others do either nowadays.

    Back in the days when buying a game was a big expense and they were sold in physical stores, sure, I played a lot of demos. But it’s much cheaper and easier to buy games now. And if I’m on the fence, I watch a trailer, review or let’s play and make my decision based on that.

    Demos in today’s market, probably not very crucial. But I guess it won’t hurt your sales either.
     
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  7. EthanFox

    EthanFox Veteran Veteran

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    This is a nuanced question today, because it's very different to how things were for most of gaming's history.

    Back in the 80s, games were generally so cheap that we pretty much bought them on the strength of screenshots. In the 90s, games got more expensive, and demos became much more important; I bought loads of games on PC, Saturn and PS1 on the strength of magazine coverdisc demos.

    The other reason for PC demos back then was that PCs used to be a complex platform for games; demos were a good way to find out if a game would run, and to what standard. These days that's not a worry for most PC gamers (for good reasons that I won't bore people with).

    However, today, there's a big thing which affects this - YouTube (and Twitch etc., I guess). It's really easy to search online for a video of most games, and while you can only infer so much from a video, I generally find that I glean enough information from a short video to decide whether or not to buy a game. Downloading a demo of a game (especially a AAA game or a large game) can take so long, whereas I can look at a video in ~30 seconds.

    So... For me, demos are interesting, and I might play them... But I would rate a good YouTube video much, much higher. The last time I played one as part of a buying decision was probably something very early in the life of the Xbox 360, so getting towards 10 years ago. I downloaded loads on the Switch, but that was because I'd just bought the machine and wanted to play some stuff as I only had 1 game at the time.
     
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  8. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    Having grown up in the 80's I can say games were not cheap then. Almost every game was $39.99 - $79.99 regardless of who made it or why. Shareware registration was often $29.99, no matter how the graphics were or how bad it was.

    If anything, games in the 80's were more expensive than they are now. If we followed the trends there, every RPGMaker game would be $29.99 or higher. With some daring to chagre $79.99. And if we adjusted for inflation, games would be $83.99 - $149.99 now. Which in a way they are, as many AAA games cost that much if you want the complete experience between season passes and DLC's.

    As I was a kid on a limited budget, I used demos a lot to decide what games to buy back then. So even in the 80's they were important.
     
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  9. EthanFox

    EthanFox Veteran Veteran

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    Sorry, I was over-generalising. Here in the UK, consoles only really came back in at the end of the 80s. For the bulk of the decade, home computers were the dominant videogame platform, and discs/cassettes tended to cost (assuming you're American) <10$US.
     
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  10. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    That is odd though as in the US we had the prices I mentioned for PC games (Ultima 4 was the game that tried to charge $79.99). Now if you waited 2 - 3 years your game ended up in the bargain bin for $5 - $15, which is how I afforded a lot of my games as a kid. I still remember the day Pool of Radiance ended up in the bin and I bought it, that was what got me into RPG's. But you had to be willing to buy older games that were new 3 - 4 years ago if you waited that long to get them at that price.

    Side note: I still got a manual for Wizardry 5 - 7 that says Jagged Alliance will cost $79.99 when it comes out. Obviously it didn't when it finally released in 1995, as by then I don't think anyone would pay that price.

    BTW, I still got my old demo CD's from PCGamer when they released those. I think those helped generate a lot of sales in the mid-90's when CD Rom got more popular. I know I bought a few games then that I wouldn't have otherwise due to checking out the demo. And of course sill being on a limited budget I played every demo on that disc like mad too, as it was usually the only game I was going to see that month. I still remember playing the Doom demo so much that I beat it once on Ultra Violence without ever having to load a save game. Yep, I had played it THAT much.
     
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  11. Switz

    Switz Veteran Veteran

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    Yeah I recall PC games being fairly cheap (however, I did not own a PC until just before PS3 days).

    I grew up on the TurboGFX, Nintendo and Super Nintendo which IMO still remains the best console ever at a certain time in history. Games for Super Nintendo where generally $55 (same as today) which was about $80 in today's purchase power/decision to buy or not.
     
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  12. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    @Switz : That's about when stores were getting rid of the PC inventory as they felt it didn't sell enough compared to other systems. Some stores like Gamestop stopped carrying PC games around then if I recall correctly (at least mine did). So I imagine at that time PC games were dropping hard in price as they were trying to clear out inventory.

    In fact, late 00's I got most of my physical PC game copies at Best Buy and the used bookstore, as they were the only two places still carrying them. And even that is no more here.
     
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  13. Baggie

    Baggie Someone Veteran

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    Honestly, I feel demos are a must.
    It's like a free sample at a restaurant.

    Yeah, I personally love RPG games, but not every RPG game is going to be one that I love, especially if it's costing money.

    Demos are really a kind offer to curious players who are on the fence about your game.
    People appreciate the gesture of being given a taste of what your game is like before flat out committing to it.

    Demos aren't JUST for the players, it's also for the dev to see potential problems and deterrents that their game could have.
    Like a bunch people could say there's something about it that they don't like and that would be a sign that maybe whatever that 'thing' is, is what's holding your game from doing really well.

    The price for the game could be second thought, if the demo is captivating enough and got players eager to play your game.

    Players are usually willing pay $50 - $60 for games from "brand name" developers because they know what how good their quality is and even still, some of those developers still offer a demo, like Pokemon Sun and Moon for example.

    Not saying you should sell your game for that much, but players know how much a game COULD cost and a demo plays a HUGE part in getting them to make the final decision of whether your game is worth the stated amount of not.
     
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  14. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    If the game is released on Steam, I don't think that a demo is necessary, as you can play for 2 hours and if you don't like it, you can get a refund, essentially making that a free 2 hour demo. I suspect that at least some people who say that they don't bother with demos are quite happy to claim their refund if the game is not up to their expectations.

    I, however, don't release straight to Steam, as I have built up a significant fan base elsewhere. So what I do is provide the 'equivalent' of that with a free demo of around 1.5 hours, the exact time depends on finding a suitable break point. This allows anyone to decide if they want to buy, and their save file carries straight on in the full game. That, imo, is a fair alternative to the Steam refund.
     
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  15. EthanFox

    EthanFox Veteran Veteran

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    Yep, top-tier PC titles used to cost a fair whack - but I'm talking about pre-PC stuff, so C64, Amiga, even Sinclair or Amstrad (which were computer brands here). These were very cheap at the time, before PC gaming really took off, and it was a bit of a cottage industry. Most of the games we were buying were developed in the UK, and were intended for the UK market.

    Gaming in the UK was very different to in the US, something which is often brushed over in gaming history (ditto for most gaming trends that existed outside the US and Japan). For starters, while the NES was popular here, I think the Sega Master System was more popular, and generally speaking, Sega were much more popular than Nintendo right up until the Saturn. My first console was a Game Gear.
     
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  16. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    @EthanFox : We had way different environments then. Where I was it was all Atari or low end PC's, then when Atari crashed it was PC or NES. No one had a C64 or Amiga that I knew of in my area at all, at least until someone donated a few old C64 to my high school in the mid 90's.

    Even then though, many of my Atari games were demos. Now unfortunately those did not translate to sales back then as I was too young to buy them, but as I got older I did track down and buy some of them, at least those I could remember the names to many years later. Or the PC remake when someone got the rights to and rebooted the game. So it still did add to sales at some point, just not immediately.

    @Kes : That's not a bad idea, but way too many don't play the steam games right away, and the rule is 2 hours or 14 days from purchase. So if you buy it to check it out and get sidetracked, then decide you don't like it when you return to it more than 14 days later (past the refund time), you're stuck with it, which might hurt your rep as a dev later.

    Of course, on the flip side, I've played some demos that were not representative of the final product at all, and that caused me to be a lot more skeptical to the company and their games altogether, and now I almost never buy any games of theirs. So if you do a demo, make sure it is representative of the final product. Consumers WILL know if it isn't, and it will come back to haunt you later. Maybe not in your first game, but it will burn them and they will not want to buy your 2nd at all then, or at least be more hesitant to do so.
     
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  17. EthanFox

    EthanFox Veteran Veteran

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    Yeah, that syncs up in retrospect with what I know. Something that the American press often does is refer to "the videogame crash of 1983", whereas the rest of the world calls it "the NORTH AMERICAN videogame crash of 1983", because it primarily affected the American market and tangentially affected everywhere else. Consequently your experience and mine are likely very different, even though we lived through the same era doing pretty much the same thing. Strange, when you think about it.

    This is actually kinda why AAA companies often abstain from proving demos these days.

    Firstly, because in the past there have been screw-ups where they gave too much away. In the 90s, there was a coverdisc for Sega Saturn Magazine which gave away a demo of Sega Worldwide Soccer '97, and the demo was limited to only letting you play half of a match... But obviously you could just reboot the demo. The full game had loads more features of course, but fundamentally, they'd given practically the whole game away. A few games made this mistake, like there were demos where if you put in the level select cheat code, you could play the entire game too.

    Secondly though there have been bad demos which cast products in bad light. One of the big developers in the 2000s (I think it was Lionhead) made a statement they weren't doing any more demos, ever, because they asserted that demos are only played by people who are already interested - so their argument was that a demo of a AAA can only reduce sales, it can't increase them.

    It might be something people disagree with, but I'm sure I remember this coming up widely in the industry press, and demos have certainly become less common, so there's probably some consensus there, right or wrong.
     
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  18. jkweath

    jkweath Goes Fast Veteran

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    I mean, personally, I used to play demos occasionally as a kid (~15 years ago), but I can't recall the last time I downloaded a demo - most games don't have one nowadays anyway. If I find a game that looks interesting, I just buy it.

    I can give a little info on personal experience about releasing a demo, though. I've never released a demo before or alongside one of my game releases, but many months after the release of my game Knight Bewitched I decided to provide a demo with it. I only did this because I already had to set up a demo when I released the game on Aldorlea, so I figured I'd provide it on Steam because, hell, why not?

    I just checked my stats - the demo's been downloaded 1,605 times. About 40% of those downloads are from China, which seems a little odd. Besides that, pretty decent number for me, but the only problem is I can't actually tell how many of those downloads converted to sales of the full game. But without seeing the actual numbers, I don't think releasing the demo had any impact on sales.

    The vast majority of my sales come from discounts, and honestly I don't think people worry about trying a demo when a game's discounted to $1.99 anyway.

    As for whether or not you should release a demo, I don't have a good informed opinion, but it does seem like there's a small subset of gamers who won't buy a game unless they can try a demo first. I suppose the argument against releasing a demo is that you could lose revenue from customers who would've otherwise bought your game and decided it wasn't for them but also decided not to or couldn't refund it.
     
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  19. rue669

    rue669 Veteran Veteran

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    This is an interesting question.

    My instinct says that a demo is a must. But thats partly because of the culture of rpg maker games. The rpg maker community is full of demos. And, if I’m being honest, I would only ever play a demo for an rpg maker game.

    I never play demos for other games, including other indie games. Recently tho, I’ve tried to change that practice and play the demo of its available only because I’ve been burned too many times on games where I pay full price and the realize it really isn’t for me.

    Regardless, is there really any harm in providing a demo? Seems like it would be easy to do. I mean, you have the game finished, why not make a demo out of the first hour or so? It may help to get sales.
     
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  20. Switz

    Switz Veteran Veteran

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    THAT was actually the reason for starting this discussion. First, to see if a demo is even needed. Kes brought up a great point about Steam's refund policy. But I just feel clipping up a part of the whole game to just the first hour or whatever is uninspiring. I mean, if the demo is in fact important, why not make it into say....a pre-lude game of some of your actual games background story leading up to the main game. Made in a way that it is in no way a requirement to have to play. Just wonder if the extra months to develop it are warranted or not / or as you point out, a potential for what you experienced. While not afraid of the quality issue, certainly throwing a lot in our early game visual and story / I just wonder if going that route is a unneeded risk or something that would be very receptive from the community.
     
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