Lunchtime Discussion: Paid For Demos

Roughly a year ago I attempted to review Linger In Shadows, a tech demo published by Sony and produced by Plastic. The software, which was essentially little more than a real time willy-waving graphical showcase for the PlayStation 3, cost £2. Not a massive amount of money, sure, but money all the same and meant that anyone without access to filling their PSN wallet wouldn’t have seen it. Unless, of course, they just watched the whole thing on YouTube or something, because although parts of ‘Shadows required the use of the controller to proceed, once you’d ‘finished’ the thing it ran at around 6 minutes from start to finish and required no further attention.

The comments in the review venomously opposed my low score (3/10), and we even had comments from the Plastic team themselves. “What I can say after reading the review is that you have created some kind of holy vision of our demo,” said Plastic’s bonzajplc. “But it’s still a demoscene demo. Not a game.” It’s not that I didn’t ‘get’ that it was a demoscene, something I’d been familiar with since the Amiga days, but merely that I felt I shouldn’t have had to pay for it. “You also seem to act as being well oriented in the demoscene history”, continued bonzajplc, “by mentioning two good old Amiga groups. Well things have changed and demoscene doesn’t do megademos anymore.”

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I don’t know who decided to charge for the demo – Sony or Plastic – and probably never will.  The point is, in opinion, Linger In Shadows should have been free, and that brings me neatly onto .deTuned, from .theprodukkt.  Again, somebody has decided that .deTuned should cost money (just over £2, this time) for what has manifested, essentially, as a basic sound manipulation tool the likes of which the iTunes Appstore has in plentiful supply.  Select a filter and use the triggers and analog sticks to ‘control’ the sound effect application, all the while watching a guy in a chair transform into various shapes and animals.  A demonstration of the technical power of the PS3 it isn’t, and pales even against ‘Shadows.

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Sure, for some ridiculously easy Trophies and a brief period of bemusement, both examples listed above are great fun, but these are so-called demoscene examples that have been famously free for decades now.  They’re not games – they’re certainly not marketed as such – but whether or not it’s because of the inclusion of those Trophies or whether Sony really do think that throwing this sort of thing onto the Store for the price of a pint of Coke balances out the development time I’m not sure – but I think they should be free.  Offset the costs with an advert for a game, perhaps, or even co-brand them in some way and give them as some kind of reward for reaching a Trophy level, perhaps.

But what do you think?

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