Is It Me Or Are Demos Rarer Recently?

demo

So my Halloween “activity” was pretty much just playing the Evil Within demo that Capcom released on Steam in a surprisingly timely manner. More than anything else this brought to my attention how few demos we’ve had for AAA games on the new consoles or PC in the last year or so.

Go look at like the last year of demos on Steam. Go to the PlayStatoin Store (on the web if you must) and filter it for demos of PS4 games. On both Steam and PlayStation you’re going to find almost nothing but demos of indie games. On PS4 you’ll find that, EA’s sports games, and THIEF. On Steam you’ll also find the Evil WIithin demo along with demos for some big PC exclusives like Civilization Beyond Earth. That’s basically it. Unfortunately it’s pretty tough to figure out which Xbox One games have demos unless you actually own a system (which I don’t), but there do seem to be a few more there.

What still doesn’t look right to me is the disparity of demos between different versions of games. Way too many indie games in the past have had demos on Xbox 360 but nowhere else. THIEF has no demo for any of its other versions. The Evil Within demo is PC-only.

There’s a good chance this recent trend might just be due to developers and platform holders focusing on other things as the new consoles are still getting started. Microsoft addressed the Xbox One’s initial lack of demos last year by promising a greater frequency of them in the future, and to a certain extent that’s already begun to happen. It could also be however the transition giving developers an opportunity to solidify their intentions of moving away from free demos entirely. Developers have often spoken out against it in the past, citing how rarely demos indisputably increase game sales.

What those developers do seem to love these days however are multiplayer betas. It seems like every big multiplayer release these days has a beta, and moving onto new consoles doesn’t seem to have slowed down the spread of this trend. How many beta’s have occurred on the PS4 or Xbox One so far? Destiny, TitanfallBattlefield Hardline, and the Evolve beta is up on PS4 right now, with the Halo 5 beta set to start in December. Those have tangible benefits to developers though — they let them balance the games while also stress testing their servers.

Another thing to pay attention to is how Nintendo’s platforms haven’t really felt the same lack of demos since the 3DS and Wii U launched. Nintendo most recently kind of made a big deal out of the Bayonetta 2 and Super Smash Bros. demos. I’ve also downloaded demos for probably dozens of 3DS games over the past couple years. The activation limit on 3DS and Wii U demos is weird, but it’s still unusual how numerous demos are on these systems. I still think this partly comes from some higher tendency among Japanese developers to do demos in the first place and even roll them into promotions. Demos like Bravely Default let you bring special content into the full game. The Evil Within demo was timed for Halloween and let’s you bring its save data into the full game. I guess that’s the kind of thing you can only get from a post-launch demo which in my opinion is better than nothing.

I stress over this because games are getting more expensive, which makes them harder to justify buying at the drop of a hat. Maybe Sony is hoping its plans to do game rentals or trials with PlayStation Now will eliminate the need for demos. Maybe all those developers hope streaming will eventually just solve that problem. Family sharing is an interesting solution too — just try out your friend’s digital copy of a game if you’re not sure about it.

BULLETS:

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One thought on “Is It Me Or Are Demos Rarer Recently?

  1. John Rose says:

    Great Article.Not like the old days where Demo Games for the PC were both huge and widely available. I remember getting a Warcraft Demo that gave you the first 6 levels of both Human and Orc Campaigns and a Syndicate (most underrated game ever) Demo with most of the territories available to play in.

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