Down with Demos
I don’t like demos. It’s taken me a while to realise though. I’ll still download them until the cows come home, but that doesn’t mean that I like them and I’ll tell you why. To me a demo should provide you with the full game experience up to a point, expressing to you what you can expect to see and do when you purchase the full release but then limiting the amount of time you can spend on the game or limiting the amount of progression you can make.
Instead, many demos will drop you in the middle of a story, give you only 5 minutes of gameplay, or just offer you a snippet of a feature that you’d never use on release. Surely developers want their demos to be an enjoyable and exciting feature that leaves the player craving the day the game is available to buy? There are companies that do demos well and those who don’t. For example I recently tried my hand at the demos for F1 2012, FIFA 13 and PES 13 – and I felt that none of them gave me the thrill or buzz I was looking for that would have pushed me over my current overdraft limit to in buying the full game on release.
Now this may be just me but I expect quite a lot from demos, especially of new titles as this is most people’s first chance to get hands on with a game they are highly anticipating. Yet even returning titles like PES and FIFA should be going all out to fend off the tackles of the opposition. I actually preferred the FIFA 13 demo this year, not because it was great, far from it. But because of a couple of nice new features that were shown off, pre-match skill challenges and the commentators talking about players based on their real life performances. These were 2 pretty cool additions that didn’t go unnoticed and are what demos should be full of. Yet this shouldn’t detract from the fact that all you can do with the demo is play a match for only a few minutes, as has been the way with all FIFA and indeed PES demos over the years. I find it near impossible to gauge my enjoyment of a game I can only play 5 minutes of before having to start the process over.
What it comes down to is a shootout between on the field gameplay between PES and FIFA as you no access to all the other great features of FIFA in the demo (why?!) if this continues to be the case I feel more and more people will defect back to PES as its gameplay is arguably superior to FIFAs. Yes, I digress. This is about demos in general and their lack of options and features. I was interested in purchasing F1 2012 – but found the demo wanting. Initially I thought you could only go through the tutorial mode which was short but sweet. Yet after ranting about this over Twitter, @TnMChris kindly informed me that you could actually race across 2 circuits in the demo. This is not at all obvious from the already frustrating menu structure in-game.
Little things like this can be the deciding factor in whether a person chooses to buy a game or not. In this case I haven’t bought the game… because I’m skint… and because I disliked the demo. I had some feedback via Twitter on what others felt about demos they had played in the past. @RidentFFXI recalled how frustrating the Dead Space demo was in that it dropped you in the middle of the game yet our own @JoeyDale13 claimed he’d be buying PES 13 this year over FIFA 13 simply because he was really impressed with the demo. @_vixx rarely downloads demos these days as she agrees is impossible to have an opinion based in a snippet of available features and unless demos started featuring collectibles, recognising progress or integrated transferrable content then she would be steering clear.
This is where some game developers need to improve their demos. Poor demos can easily put people off of the full title – the exact opposite of what a demo is trying to achieve. Instead of limiting the functionality or restricting what features we use, unlock all features for use but impose a time limit on how long we can play the demo for. Surely this will help potential suitors see the full capabilities of a game making them more likely to buy it – if they like what they see of course. If you complete a demo, why not have the completion recognised through achievement or transferrable content? Or be able to unlock features of items that can be redeemed in the full release? So why can’t the big games provide us with a ‘trial run’ of their game? XBLA is great with its smaller titles in that you can try before you buy by downloading a trial version of the game.
I’d guess that there is a cost involved in releasing a ‘preview’ version of the game prior to mainstream release. Yet if it was the deciding factor between purchase and non-purchase would it not be worthwhile? There are of course a few developers that do demos well, Kingdoms of Amalur was one but I come full circle back to my old friend Football Manager for a great example of a demo. Here you can play and utilise every new feature, tweak, change and modification to your heart’s content for half a season of management. If you manage to get to the January transfer window and the demo prevents you going any further, fear not, as on full release you can transfer you current demo save into the full game and carry on where you left off, essentially playing the full game before it’s been released. This is what demos should be like.