Sony 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.