Are Demos Evil?

Resident Evil 5 DemoI feel like we’ve got a pretty good thing going on here at GamerSushi. In many ways, I’d like to feel like the discussion that goes on here is perhaps ahead of the curve on some gaming issues in comparison to other sites. I think this is especially true when topics we’ve debated about here start to appear in more mainstream outlines.

Take the subject of demos, for instance. CVG has posted an opinion piece stating that demos are evil, and no good really comes of them. The writer raises some good points which we’ve covered here, but I thought it would be good to revisit them. I think the main problem with demos is that they don’t often showcase the things about a game you really need to get a grasp of it.

Most games operate on a curve that teaches you about the game the farther you get into it, so the first few minutes is most often ideal. However, the first 10-15 minutes aren’t always the sexiest parts of the game, so developers don’t often do that, giving you weird glimpses into what they’ve made (see Resident Evil 5’s demo). I’m curious to see how the new PSN features that allow you to experience the first hour of a game operate, and how they work against game demos.

What do you guys think about game demos? Are they evil?

Source- CVG

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I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

15 thoughts on “Are Demos Evil?”

  1. No, I don’t think demos are evil. The quality of the demo is in the developers’ hands. A demo that showcases the first 15 minutes isn’t going to be as action-packed as a demo that delves deeper into the game usually, but with the BioShock demo, those first 15 minutes introduce you to the world so well and with a good deal of action that if the demo, which is meant to introduce the player to atmosphere and gameplay of the game, were set later in the game, it would ruin the surprise of finding all the items yourself and also would make you feel a bit disoriented because you don’t know what the world of Rapture is like as well as you would if you started the game at the beginning.
    So while demos can be botched, it doesn’t necessary make it evil. Demos are free, so if it’s bad, you just erase it from your harddrive. If it’s good, then you have a good basis for buying the full game. I see how demos can be manipulated to make a game better than it actually is, but I’ve played several demos and when I got the full game, it was just as the demo had suggested the atmosphere and gameplay would be. So I like demos because they let you try out a bit of a game for free and then let you decide if you want to continue your pursuit of the game.

  2. They aren’t evil, but they can be misleading. The RE 5 demo was TOUGH. It took a couple times playing it before I was ready to buy the game for sure. I am glad I did.

  3. I think the problem is that demos are inconsistent. Some demos, like Wolverine and WET make you want to buy the game, while some like Republic Heroes and Bayonetta make you throw up a bit.

    It’s all about picking the right vertical slice of game-play that will accurately depict what the game represents. For WET, I thought that was leaping around to a rockabilly soundtrack. I was wrong. It was actually about bugs and poor level design.

    The other issue is the notion of multiplayer betas/demos. These give access to a fairly large chunk of a component that comprises the game’s longevity, and the value one can get from a multiplayer demo is larger than what you can glean from a 15 minute bit. It also serves as a good testing ground for feeling out bugs and glitches (looking at you, Infinity Ward).

    So, done properly a demo is a force for good, but if you mess up a demo you could turn public reception of your game in a complete 180.

  4. See, I think I’ve learned after hating the RE5 demo that I can’t write off games based on the demo alone.

    I wasn’t hugely impressed with the (extremely short) Bayonetta demo, but it’s been getting such fantastic reviews that I still want to play the full game.

    I’m not sure what the best solution is, really. I usually have a “try before you buy” mindset, but I’ve found that renting doesn’t really work well for me. GameFly just ended up meaning I kept games long enough to have paid the full price for them, and brick-and-mortar stores combine terrible selections with hideous prices.

    I think figuring that out has made me more willing to just buy games on reputation alone with the expectation that I can trade them in if I don’t end up enjoying them. So far it’s worked out pretty well.

  5. All I’ve got to say about demos is that they preview a decent part of a bad game (BioShock demo, I didn’t like it like everyone else, and the WaW beta, since that got old for me fast), or they preview a bad part of a good game (Half-Life 2 demo).

    Otherwise, I disagree with the complaints of the author of the CVG article. No, the demo doesn’t show the best parts of the game, because then I wouldn’t want to buy it. The game teaches you about the stuff in the demo, anyway. And if it doesn’t, I tend to figure it out on my own.

  6. Well, I’m going to play the Devil here. Demo’s prevent me from pirating a game before buying it. I only ever spend money on a game before playing it if it is a sequel (GTA IV, Assassin’s Creed 2) or I recieve it as a gift.

    If it is a brand new IP, I need to know how it runs on my computer and how it “feels” with a mouse and keyboard before I drop 50 or 60 bucks on it. So, I’ll steal it and if it’s really worth it, I’ll pay for it after. And I do have enough morality to say that I have done this with many games.

    So: Demos prevent me from stealing games. It’s that simple.

  7. Demos are serve the same purpose to the gamer as teasers and trailers, but they in theory should be a lot more informative about the game they’re representing and should include valuable information which often determines if it is going to be bought. And the demos today are the exactly opposite of what I’ve just stated there. Take the GT5 demo for example. And at first, lets look at it as if we were a regular potential customer, who has never encountered this title before and knows absolutely nothing about it: by the looks of it has two cars, one track and only one race option which is a limit-less time trial, the physics are demanding and the game is almost unplayable if it’s operated by a sixaxis controller. Almost everything looks as if GT would be the worst thing to buy under any circumstances. That’s one potential customer LOST.

    BUT, if you’re a fan of the franchise, you’d understand why it looks shit. It’s because the demo only represents the physics and the sound parts of the full build at that particular dev-stage, because it’s actual purpose is not to inform a customer, but to choose 10 lucky people from each european country that is “registrable” in PSN to go and compete for a chance to get a real race-drivers career. The u.s. winner gets two tickets to the daytona 500 festival or something.

    The whole point is, the demo represents nothing of the stunning visuals or the massive amount of content (950+ cars and 60 + track variations) that is going to be present (or presented) in the full game, all the stuff that is relevant to the customer. And this is not the only demo, that sucks at representing the whole game.

    Of course, it would be heck of a lot harder to try and make a relevant demo of a story-based game, such as Uncharted 2. Of course, the beta was there, but all it had was mp and co-op mode, it lacked it’s stunning cut-scenes and story, all of which I like more in the game than the visuals and gameplay. Then again, it is hard to incorporate a demo for a story, but the first chapter would’ve been great demo for the game, and then if you’d buy it, it would recognize that you’ve already played it and skipped to the second chapter.
    All in all, it is hard to make a relevant demo of a game that relies on it’s story, I mean, I couldn’t think of any way that would make a great demo of hl2 or portal or mgs, and I haven’t played any of them.

  8. Demo’s aren’t evil. Look at Batman:Arkham asylum. That demo is great. it shows off the story, detective elements, predator gameplay, and the regular combat, all in a way that made it impossible not to love. As has been said, demo’s don’t doom games either, because even if a demo doesn’t appeal, viva la RE5, reviews can turn it around. So demo’s can do a lot of good, and not so much harm.

  9. Demo’s aren’t evil. They need to be more consistent, though. There should be a formula as to what goes into a demo depending on the type of game. Some demo’s don’t showcase enough game play, while some are level, action packed, but lacking of art and story. On average, most demo’s do a good job of showcasing their games, but playing a game in a store for a few minutes sometimes does a much better job of showing it off than a demo does.

  10. Not so Anthony. I am literally tied to my computer chair. Ubisoft signed this complicated deal with me a few years ago. I don’t make any of my own choices any more.

    I need to know how a game plays and works. You can’t rent PC games: Pirating is my “rental”. If I don’t like it, I uninstall. If it’s good, I go out and buy it. Make me a demo and I can figure out very quickly how it feels.

  11. Surprised nobody’s mentioned this, but… Brutal Legend? As much as I love Tim Schafer, and even Brutal Legend, the demo was certainly misleading. It brought to mind a hack’n’slash 3rd-person adventure, whereas it ended up being more of an amalgam of genres.

    I don’t have a problem with demos if they represent what the game as a whole is going to be like, but they also have to keep themselves from showing everything in the game, otherwise there’ll be no incentive to actually go out and buy it. Probably the demo that worked the best on me (i.e. made me buy the game) was Shadow Complex’s – and it was a great purchase, no less. Least effective? L4D2. Tried it, but after playing the first scene I felt I’d played it all, so I’m holding out on a big sale, and that’s the danger of showing too much.

    tl;dr, it’s tough to make a demo do what it’s supposed to, because there’s a fine line between devs not showing enough and playing their whole hand.

  12. wox42 said: “there’s a fine line between devs not showing enough and playing their whole hand.”

    I disagree entirely. If the story and the gameplay are strong enough, they should hook you immediately. It’s not like Modern Warfare 2 – “it has new guns! NEW GUNS IT HAS!”. Who cares; MAKE ME CARE! They didn’t ‘need’ a demo since it was a follow up to one of the best games ever; and as we now know, didn’t even come close to the enormity of COD4.

    A great demo should drag you in and make you want MORE. A truly “good game” can’t possibly “show everything they have to offer” in the first chapter/segment.

    L4D2 is a bad example for you to use. WE ALREADY KNOW WHAT IT IS… You run, you shoot, you scream, etc etc etc. It’s like Counter-Strike having a demo, but only being able to play Dust2… you will understand the whole game, just not see all the maps. No need for demo’s, we know what to expect.

    On the other hand, we have HL2. If you only play the first chapter as a demo, it SHOULD force almost any gamer to buy the full game to see what’s going to happen.

    The really good single-player games dont ever give away too much in a demo. If they do, they’re not a “really great game”.

  13. [quote comment=”9634″]If the story and the gameplay are strong enough, they should hook you immediately. It’s not like Modern Warfare 2 – “it has new guns! NEW GUNS IT HAS!”.[/quote]

    Yes, that’s true. I think more what I was trying to say is that the demo should accurately reflect what the game is all about without giving away the whole experience, and that’s one of the things that Brutal Legend did wrong. It tried to sell itself as something it wasn’t.
    And you’re right that L4D2 was a bad example; the demo more convinced me of what I already knew than anything else. It is true that the levels are the least variable part of the game, though, and the demo did let you see most of the weapons, enemies, and character interaction.
    But the main point you made – that a demo should hook you and leave you wanting more – is pretty right on. Still something that appears to be difficult for most devs, though 🙂

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