Sony Patents Degradable Video Game Demos

By Spencer . March 4, 2010 . 6:16pm

imageSony appears to be working on a new kind of video game demo. A patent filed by SCEA details a system that gives users a full or nearly complete game to play with, but slowly removes features until you buy it.


The software has customizable triggers that disable features after a set number of plays or lapsed play time. Let’s see some theoretical examples of how this could work.


In one scenario your weapon is weakened or replaced with a less powerful one after so many hours playing the game. Think of it as a timed level down.



Another idea Sony has is to remove levels, race tracks in this example, after you reach a certain number of plays. When you finally buy the game (bottom right) you can use all of the tracks again.



Removing weapons and playable characters are on the table too. Sony’s patent also lists subtle ideas such as softening sound effects, changing color depth, and/or brightness as other ways to encourage players to purchase a full version. In all cases, you can still play the game, just a limited version of it.


The patent says this system is better than current demos because degradable demos can be distributed on physical media and players can see the whole game for a limited amount of time. In other words, this system is “nag screen 2.0” that can be distributed on a disc and restored with an unlock key.

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  • It’s an interesting concept, but when you provide the entire game on a single disk, it’s not long before the pirates figure out how to get rid of the degradation and you’re marketing a full game for free for certain people.

    • That was my first thought as well. I really hope it doesn’t happen.

    • malek86

      Yeah, you’re basically giving pirates a full game for no price or almost, at which point they’ll probably have little trouble unlocking it by shady ways. Besides, compared to the normal PSN downloads, this method will produce even more waste, and there’s also a chance that it might have a price attached to it.

      It might have made more sense if they were only downloadable for free from PSN, with an identification key provided when you download them, and connection required. Sure it feels like DRM, but as long as it’s free… and there’s no waste produced and it would be more difficult to unlock for pirates. But they’d probably be too big to download. besides, in that case, a normal demo would do just fine anyway.

      In short: do not want.

    • Shadow complex XBL demo comes to mind , where you could use an exploit and play the entire game (only without saves)

  • I’m sure that’s going to be simply a joy to program for.

  • The US patent office is slowly ruining everything.

  • daizyujin

    This is ridiculous. It is just a step above that whole idea of “disintegrating DVD rentals.” You are still filling a land fill rather than using digital distribution.

    Perhaps when that pretty little ecological statistic that Nintendo keeps failing comes around they will take this idea into account if for no other reason than the ludicrous reason Sony gives for why they even want to bother.

  • nyoron

    Gradually making the game less fun as people play it doesn’t seem like the best way to make someone want to run out and buy it. Interesting idea but I feel like it would piss you off more than entice you.

    • LastFootnote

      These are pretty much my thoughts exactly. I couldn’t have worded it better.

    • Landiur

      I find that most demos are designed to piss you off until you get fed up with it and buy the game.

    • StealthKnight

      It would be worse if people do not realize the game is degrading and not a bug. This could be bad though for those who like to explore the demo’s as they may not get through a level because they spent so much time exploring and enjoying the game.

      This could also backfire for them too as if people speed run through the game, they may not want to buy it afterward so they would lose sales. Some people may even complete the game before the degrading feature removes levels from the game and not want to buy it. This good also backfire big time when it comes to piracy as ubi-soft’s internet plan was cracked in 25 hours. More people may pirate the game to see the last bits that disappeared or to get a free copy without having to pay.

  • I don’t like it.

    Besides, there is NO way I would invest 6 hours in a demo.

    If you’re gonna play more than 1 hour, might as well buy the full thing.

  • Pesmerga00

    Congratulations, you’ve just purchased[Cool Game IX – The Last…Something] from the Demo. Enjoy your purchase!

    For just an extra 10$ you can unlock the “Exclusive” [Big Bad Dungeon].

    An additional 2$ will let you customize you characters with never before seen [Epic Attire and Gear]. Note: pricing is set per item.

    New [Opposing Forces Mode] revolutionizes multiplayer experience. A one time fee of $4.99 is required for multiplayer.

    In addition to our new Versus mode 2 new online map packs featuring 5 each will be released for a limited time. [Awesome Map Pack 1] 7$ [Sweet Map Pack1] 7$.

    If you have invested in all previous, premium content you qualify for the game changing additional character [Cameo Dude 1]. 5$ gratuity is non refundable.

    Pricing, availability, and continuous service subject to change. Degrade-ability of game and or demo, will begin one year from the date “whenever the hell we feel like it”.

    Demo to be included only with select Blu-ray releases of Gigli.

  • Vanilla

    Does this remind anyone about the whole BS concept that was thrown up a few years ago about making players pay for game endings to suppress the used gaming market? Not exactly the same, but essentially yes.

    Companies need to stop trying to bite the hand that feeds them. Is it’s really so hard to package new games with bonuses or…you know, make a game that’s good? Making demos that screw the player over isn’t exactly a smart idea. I don’t have enough faith in the enjoyability of most current-gen games to be enticed by a crappy demo, I’m sorry to say.

  • Titanio Verde

    Come on! That’s too complicated! It would be to steal more programming time.

    Moreover, what do they have against demos? They are not the full game, right?
    I was used to collect demos…

  • idk , parts of the idea sort of make sense i think.
    Like the racing game demo idea , all the tracks are unlocked but you can only play each one once.

  • God we’re going to have to subscribe to all our videogames – forget buying it once and keeping it.

  • I just sent an e-mail to Sony America today regarding of the patent:

    “About your Recent Patenting of Degradable Demos for Playstation Games:


    Why should you implement it?

    What good would it do to consumer’s influence with the games in terms of social, commercial, and budgeting terms?

    Will this ‘new’ demo technique degrade sales even deeper from piracy?


    My overall thought when I first viewed it would be the most controversial Demo technique ever made. Even worse than time trail based on the full game when it was done by several PC game hosting sites.

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