Are Game Demos Really Going Away?

By Ishaan . April 25, 2010 . 5:27pm


Following recent tradition, Capcom are being rather creative and forward-thinking in their approach to promoting their upcoming big-budget games. The one I’m thinking of in particular is Dead Rising 2. Like Bionic Commando before it, DR2 will be available first in the form of digitally downloadable content that isn’t just a demo of the game. Where Bionic Commando was preceded by a remake of the original NES game on XBLA and PlayStation Network, Dead Rising 2 follows a slightly more traditional, efficient approach.


At X10 earlier this year, Capcom announced that a standalone episode that serves as a prologue to the events of Dead Rising 2 will be released on Xbox Live ahead of the release of the retail game itself. Titled Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, the episode won’t require a copy of Dead Rising 2, and serves as a “unique sample” experience of sorts. It introduces Chuck, the new protagonist, along with his daughter, in a town overrun by zombies.


The catch here is that there has been no mention of an actual free-to-download demo so far, even following the recent Capcom press conference in Hawaii. Downloading Case Zero is going to cost money — money that you probably didn’t expect to spend on sampling the game before release. Now, while one certainly can’t accuse Capcom and Blue Castle of shafting consumers here — Case Zero is a unique experience after all — it also raises the question: is this a step toward eventually moving us away from the luxury of being able to sample as few games as possible for free? After all, EA, too, have brought up the subject of having customers pay $10 – 15 for what they call “premium demos.”


Defending his publisher’s business plan, Crytek CEO Cervat Yerli recently said in an interview: “Because we’ve had this free luxury for so long, now there are plans to change this people are complaining about it. The reality is that we might not see any free game demos in the long term.”


It makes you wonder if the majority of publishers really do view demos as something that hurts their business. I feel it’s safe to say that most of us at the consumer end view a well-crafted demo as an easy way to figure out whether we’re going to enjoy a game or not. Sure, a follow-up to a successful game like Dead Rising 2 may not require a demo to sell itself, but for a new, untested game, a free demo can be crucial to attracting an audience. $15 is still a fair bit of money to put down for a game you don’t know you’ll enjoy. Judging by the free Monster Hunter Tri demo disc, Capcom are fully aware of this fact.


So maybe not all demos are going to go away. Maybe we’ll still see the occasional vertical slice of new and different games in future years. One just hopes publishers aren’t so fixated on their bottom line that they forget how to speak to their audience. After all, both movies and music albums still have trailers and music videos on MTV, both of which count as free demo experiences.


Food for thought:


On the other hand, Case Zero is exclusive to Xbox Live, which means there’s no equivalent of a “demo” available to PS3 owners. Perhaps we’ll hear announcement of a separate demo in the future after all.

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  • Slashlen

    Publishers want to break that $60 barrier, but they also think gamers will revolt over it, so they’re trying to get it via other means, whether it’s DLC after the fact, or something like this which sounds more like pre-release DLC.

    This is about milking an extra $10 out of people who were going to buy the game anyway, I wouldn’t be suprised if some games that go this route still release a free demo at or just after release(not the same as the paid one, probably a portion of the real game like most demos).

    This won’t stop free demos from coming out for games that need people to try them to convice them to get it, but for other games this may catch on as another way to break $60.

    • MrRobbyM

      Games shouldn’t cost $60 to begin with..

      • Slashlen

        As a form of entertainment, games are acutally pretty cheap. Stack it up against movies or music and it looks pretty good. If you have a great game, it’s not unreasonable to put in over a hundred hours on it. That’s great value.

        The bad thing about the $60 price tag is that it’s awful for a bad game, or even a decent game without a lot of replay value. If I go see a bad movie, or buy some crappy music, I’m out less than $15. If I buy a bad game, I just burned 4 times that amount. Having to shell out $60 for a new game makes buying new release games risky.

        • SeventhEvening

          That’s how I calculate my media expenses. I divide the amount of money I would spend over the amount of hours I will use the product. I don’t buy DVDs as often as I used to because it costs around 5 dollars an hour if I buy the DVD new and watch the movie twice. On the other hand, 60 dollars for a 60 hour breaks down to a dollar an hour. That’s why I won’t buy Conviction for several more months: 12 dollars an hour is way too steep.

          I also usually only buy games day one if it’s a publisher I really like. Basically Atlus, NIS, Sega and Marvelous. I don’t trust EA or Activision, so I won’t gamble with them unless they build my confidence with a demo or something. But I wouldn’t pay 15 dollars for the privilege.

          • speedstersonic

            I absolutely agree with you. I feel games are at the right price, and being a game programmer, I understand how much work is put into them.

        • adempton

          I do the same thing. If I enjoy a 2 hour movie at the theater for $15, that’s $7.50/hr. So if I end up playing a good RPG for 80 hours, I guess I could have paid $600, but I only paid $60! What a deal!

          Of course, I’d never pay $600. I just use this to justify my purchases so I don’t feel as bad when I buy a load of new games. :)

  • hadjimurad

    I seriously don’t think I would be having so much fun playing Just Cause 2 right now if it had not been for the free demo. I gladly paid 60 bucks after the demo, but I would have never spent 5-10 to try out a game that was so different from my normal preferences. I hope free demos continue.

    • SeventhEvening

      I was going to say the same thing. The first Just Cause didn’t impress me, and if it wasn’t for the demo of Just Cause 2, I would have entirely ignored the game. There’s been other games that I won’t take the risk on, but if I had a demo to see what I was getting into I might consider it.

      Additionally, what kind of moron would pay for a demo if renting the entire game is a cheaper alternative?

      • Scallion

        The same species of moron that pays for $15 or more for DLC that doesn’t add a lot of content.
        Also, it’s sad to see people vehemently defending an industry-*any* industry whose only goal is to drain as much money from our pockets as possible.
        You guys are the worst kind of consumer.

  • Yea free demos i think really do encourage me to purchase the retail games. Its usually make or break for me and my friends.

  • JeremyR

    It’s like the “free to play” MMORPG business model, where they basically squeeze as much money possible from those that actually spend money on them.

    In this case, they are targeting new game buyers (those that have to run out and buy games at launch). Squeeze all that they can out of them. Paid demos. DLC that is on the disc for even more money.

  • ElTopo

    Honestly EA can go **** themselves. I keep saying this, but DLC is just a way for developers to milk more money out of consumers with content that should have already been included in the game. (Most of the time that is). Premium Demos? Where in the industry have consumers been asking for that? We pay 10-15$ for great games via PSN/Xbox Live, full featured fleshed out games, and they think we are gonna pay 10-15$ for a demo?

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