Demos Are Great For Gamers, Not-So-Great For Game Sales

Demos Are Great For Gamers, Not-So-Great For Game Sales

Giving players a chance to try before they buy is a noble gesture, but it may not be a wise. According to research presented by game designer Jesse Schell at the Gamelab conference in Barcelona today, a demo can cut into a game’s sales by more than 50 per cent, CVG reports.

The data, gathered by analytics firm EEDAR, shows the average sales for an Xbox 360 game promoted only by a trailer to be 525,000 over six months. Add a demo to the mix and the average drops to 250,000. Even keeping in mind that these figures include blockbuster titles with no need for a demo and games that added demos after the first six months, the number is still pretty substantial.

Makes sense, if you think about it. How many times have you purchased a game blind that you wouldn’t have purchased at all if you knew what you were getting into?

Game demos halve sales, new data suggests [CVG]


  • Most of the games in that survey that released demos were terrible games and customers were able to see that and save themselves the cost of the game that could be used on a much better one. If every game dev released a demo then it would provide incentive for them to make the game good rather than just trying to cash in on blind brand recognition. Games such as Game Dev Tycoon and Gunpoint benefited from releasing a demo because they were actually GOOD and the demos convinced people on the fence that the game was worth the money. If your game sucks your demo will only make people see what a ripoff it is and less people will buy it so of course the money-hungry AAA devs will want people to blindly spend $50-100 for a game!

    • Precisely! Correlation is NOT causation! All this tells sloppy developers is that hiding the truth about the quality of their games will get them a sale.

    • To me, this smells like so much bullshit. Not only is the methodology hugely flawed, but it reeks of the anti-piracy argument, “Every pirated copy is a lost sale.”

      Someone played your demo and didn’t buy your game. Of COURSE they would have bought it without a demo! And someone who pirated your game TOTALLY would have paid for it if it had come with hyper-restrictive always-online DRM instead. *eyeroll*

      There is a giant logic fail here, brought about by lack of data. I have an idea for something they can test for: Test ONLY games which have demos. Ask the demo-players if they were more or less likely to purchase the game after playing the demo, then match that inclination to the metacritic scores.

  • I want to see a graph of metacritic score vs sales for games with demos and a second graph for games without demos. Also adding a price axis would be beneficial too. I would agree that on the whole games should avoid demos, but that is because most games are worse than their trailers. But, for games with decent, compelling gameplay, HL2, minecraft, dishonoured, where you can’t experience everything in the first 20 minutes, a demo would actually boost sales.

  • Pretty bang on the money doggie015, I’ve played plenty of demo’s for quality games before they were released such as for example Serious Sam and Monkey Island 4 and I replayed those demos multiple times. Then purchased the game, and convinced all my friends to do the same.

  • This would only be considered worthwhile data if they also had sales numbers for the same game in regions where the title had a demo and did not.

  • If a game doesn’t have a demo and is getting ‘average’ reviews … Then there is no chance I’m buying it at full price, which is one of the problems with the industry. Every new game starts at about $90 (no I don’t pay that either) regardless of effort/quality etc. if your game ain’t quite AAA then why are you trying to gouge me a new one for it. High-purchase price+average review=dead game … Regardless of the demo.

  • If a demo hurts game sales then it’s a clear indicator that the game is lacking a level of quality worth paying for. I don’t know how you could see it any other way. If I had it my way
    EVERY game that uses a movie license should be forced to release a demo first.

  • Wait. Just Cause 2 lost a sale by me enjoying the demo and buying the game?

  • Given that people still fall for tricks like the Pokemon Yellow on Apple App Store scam, this makes perfect sense if you’re after a quick buck. If you actually want people to continue to buy your products and boost your sales by word of mouth, you will need to rethink your strategy.

  • Yes, spending 40% of your $70 million budget on bus ads and live-action TV spots will get you more idiot sales, of course.

    But what about the companies who couldn’t afford to release a single TV ad without going bankrupt? Demos are a perfectly viable option…and a lot more honest.

  • I can easily believe this. There are plenty of games that aren’t bad by any means, but that I play the demo and consider myself done with them.

    I can only think of 3 games that I actually went out and bought the full version straight after playing the demo:
    – Arkham Asylum
    – Total Overdose
    – Monkey Island 3

    Other than that, I pretty much get my fill from the demo and move on.

    • Over the years for me, it was Warcraft 2, Diablo, Kingdom O’ Loathing, Command & Conquer, Normality, Bad Mojo… and many more. The 90s and early 00s were a blur of gaming magazine cover-CDs, chock full of demos which excited me about getting the full game.

      Then there was a period of time where, I uh… didn’t buy many games.

      Then I got older and started caring about games and voting with my wallet and all that shit, and then demos once again started selling me games. More importantly, demos have allowed me to sell good games to my friends. Most recently, Gunpoint and Orcs Must Die, as examples which sold a product that the interested parties otherwise would not have bought.

  • No demo means to me that the game isnt that good. These companies should man up and release a demo otherwise ill go on the opinion that the games not worth playing.

    Besides which, i can just sail the salty seas to see if the game is worth playing and paying for, and if it turns out it is, well ive already got a full working version of the game, so what incentive do i have to part with hard earned money to buy another full workin game.

    • Sometimes you buy a non-working version! DRM is known to hurt the paying customer in the majority of implementations. There are exceptions like steam which is also an online store and social platform whereas SecuROM is just an annoyance that can cause things to break!

  • Typical of the industry these days. Appease the developers before the customer.
    If they didn’t make crap games they’d get more sales.

  • I really doubt this how many people actually play demos before they buy the game ? Most people seem to just buy the game after hearing about and seeing a tralier

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