Demos: Are They Good?

So, are demos here to stay like analog sticks, or will they go the way of the Sega console and disappear for good?

By canana, Posted 16 May 2009

More than just about anything, the downloadable demo has defined the current console generation. Suddenly we can try all sorts of games before we buy them. Pick up an Xbox or PlayStation, and you could squeeze a solid hundred hours out of the system before even spending a cent on download or retail games.

So, are demos here to stay like analog sticks, or will they go the way of the Sega console and disappear for good?

Over at the MTV Multiplayer blog Stephen Totilo reported on a policy shift that took place on the PlayStation Network late last year. Apparently, companies who wish to post content on the PSN are now required to pay bandwidth costs. At 16 cents per gigabyte, it might sound cheap at a glance, but the costs can stack up when millions of people are downloading your 1500 megabyte demo.

Talking to friends who prefer the PlayStation 3 over the Xbox 360, one of the first arguments that comes up is that they don't have to pay for the PSN service. With almost identical libraries, the online service has become one of the main decision makers for people on the fence about which console to buy.

So, if you're an Xbox user, you don't have to pay unless you're interested in multiplayer, and you have access to all the same content that Gold members do, albeit a bit late. On the PSN side, there is no subscription pay structure or set of benefits.

Sony informs developers of the new charges.

There are clear advantages to each side, but the question I have to ask is, will charging publishers to put their content online discourage them from doing it? On 1UP's ListenUp podcast, the crew discussed this week the question of whether demos are an advertisement or not. In many cases, the demo can in fact discourage an immediate purchase of the product, if not discouraging it altogether. The idea is that if you weren't already planning to buy the game, the demo will sate your appetite, letting you delay the purchase by a few months in favor of something more immediate.

I experienced this personally with LucasArts Star Wars: The Force Unleashed last year. A game I'd initially been excited about turned from a must-buy into a buy-later (and then into a rent when the reviews came out, but that's another story). So if the demos are less advertisements and more rewards for the pre-established fans, and the demos are actually costing the publisher money, will they continue to put them online?

Obviously, the big name titles that actually get demos will still get them, but I think this is going to make the Preorder Bonus Demo a more appealing prospect to publishers and developers alike.

I don't think, this early in the year, that the effect has quite hit gamers, but I'd be curious to see if the frequency of demos decreases as time goes on with the policy changes on the PSN and the general knowledge that demos do not, in fact, move retail boxes.

Marco Cecilio, NoobFeed

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  • avatar RON

    i usually don't download demos as i'm not a console gamer. but most of the console gamers i know, they all download 'em. and i suppose that's the beauty of consoles. you get to try a fair amount of any game before purchasing. and even if they put a small amount of money for downloading them, gamers will still go for the demos. it really doesn't matter how much the companies are earning from million users. 16 cents per gigabyte is still a better choice than spending $50 on a game you might not like.

    Posted May 16, 2009
  • My brother does it all day long. He doesn’t leave a single demo available for PS3. But I hate to do this. The only demo I’ve played in my life is AoE III and I got so annoyed when I couldn’t play more than just one campaign. And the game was also not available at the shops at that time.

    Very very nice article :)

    Posted May 17, 2009
  • Demos? one of the rare things that I don't like and don't use. It can provide usefull informations to buy or not, and as a publisher/developer you should think real carefull if you want to put a demo on PSN or XBL. Like you said, there are also costs.

    Sony and Microsoft aren't dumb, so of course that they will tell the publishers that they need to pay for using the servers. a half a million to spend just for a Demo to be released isn't a low price, and if more then million people get that Demo, the costs are even higher.

    I don't know how the future of demos will go, but I have a strong felling that they are going to be less and less popular by time ;)

    Posted May 17, 2009
  • Hmmm demos. Surely they give you a good idea of what the full game will be like, makes your purchase or not decision easier. I don't consider demos as advertisements, at least not with the strict definition of the word. If you want to be more sure about your game collection and spend your money wise, demos are a very good tool :)

    Posted May 18, 2009
  • Demos are great. So helpful if your ify about a game.

    Posted May 19, 2009
  • They certainly helped me save money a couple of times and avoid some bad purchases, plus they give you a pretty good idea of how the game will be like.

    Posted May 20, 2009
  • I have an xbox 360, and when i used to have Live i would download demos if the game caught my eye.


    The best demo i ever played was for Red Faction: Guerilla. I wasn't sure what to expect from the games, as i'd never played one before (not having a ps2) but my friend who had the games encouraged me to download it.


    WOW - incredibly destructive environments (accomplished either by using a melée weapon -> sledgehammer) or explosives or vehicles, AND  a time trial all in one demo? Of course i stayed up for hours that night replaying it, and pre-ordered the game the next day.

    I'd say that demo's make me want to buy a game i might not otherwise risk spending money on, and further more give me something to get my teeth around whilst waiting for release day :)

    Posted Dec 10, 2009

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Publisher(s): NoobFeed
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Themes: Feature, Editorial, Interviews, Opinion Pieces
Release Date: 2009-02-14

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