If Game Demos Went Away, Would You Miss Them?

Do game demos still have a place in the industry?

Do game demos still have a place in the industry?
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A guy named Jesse Schell – who is apparently not only an industry analyst, but a CEO of some sort of game company – made a strong case against video game demos at the DICE 2013 conference.

Honestly, I’ve never heard of Schell or his company, and judging by comments on similar news articles about his arguments, neither have most people. So I can’t really judge his games. But I have to wonder, based on his arguments (which are supported by statistics) are his games really any good?

Schell’s argument is basically that taking the time and money to make a demo isn’t worth it. It actually usually leads to fewer sales according to his statistics, and so he believes that savvy publishers and developers shouldn’t bother. His tone is entirely businessman-like, there is no scathing hatred or anger or even bitterness behind his words. His speech is merely to inform and help out game publishers and developers financially.

So why do I feel like his words are those of someone who is attacking the very integrity of the industry?

I think it’s because when I look back at my childhood, I see kids like myself being affected by this as well as adults. My family didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, and no kid gets every game they want, so I often played games for months if not years on end, replaying them over and over again. A game was a major investment for my family, and it still is for most people. A major investment of time, if not money. But demos helped me figure out which games I REALLY wanted. Besides that, they could be fun to play with your friends, especially if you didn’t have a huge library of games.

I remember a demo introduced me to my very first JRPG, a game called Legend of Dragoon. It’s definitely even now a cult classic, so I would have never heard of it much less played it or become such a huge fan of it. That game defined my adolescence. Yet, I would never have heard of it if I never had played its demo. It was the first time I was left wanting more from a demo, and I replayed it many times until my mom finally bought it for me.

Fast forward twelve years later, and I’m downloading another demo right now. I haven’t played a new JRPG series in probably ten years, and I haven’t played a new JRPG at all since 2005. But I’ve been hearing a buzz about a certain game, a JRPG I know nothing about called Ni No Kuni. I would normally shrug it off as just another game maybe I’ll get around to researching and maybe even one day playing in the far away future, but a friend of mine told me I should download the demo. So I am, right now. Honestly, if the demo is great or even just has potential, I’ll probably buy and play it as soon as next month, rather than the “maybe, sometime in the distant future” I give to most games, especially JRPGs as of lately. All due to a demo.

So, if a game has a good demo, it is likely to be bought. If the game has a mediocre demo, but sparks interest in an otherwise unknown game, it now has an increased chance of being bought. If the demo lives up to your expectations of what you thought the game would be, it is a guaranteed buy. The only thing developers have to fear, is having a terrible demo or a terrible game. And honestly, anyone who cares about the health of the games industry should want only quality games to be bought. The ones that can’t make it off their merit, and only would be bought because of marketing will eventually fade away as publishers learn they can’t get away with a half-assed game.

That’s why I feel that Jesse Schell is attacking the games industry, that’s why I feel like all he cares about is money, and that’s why I believe that game demos need to stay around as long as there are video games.

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