Data Suggests Playable Demos Can Halve Game Sales

The chart above, part of a presentation by game designer Jesse Schell at Gamelab today, shows data put together by analytics company EEDAR.

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The slide shows that an average Xbox 360 game with –

  • a trailer but no demo sells 520,000 units
  • a trailer and a demo sells 250,000 units
  • no trailer and a demo sells 200,000 units
  • no trailer and no demo sells 100,000 units

– in a six month period.

As CVG say, though this doesn’t take into account which games are analysed or whether the big AAA games (like Call of Duty) that don’t run with demos (or don’t have them until after release) would make any difference.

On the Xbox 360, Arcade games have to have  a demo. Would a substandard demo put people off? Can a publisher twist what a game is like with an unplayable trailer?

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33 Comments

  1. Could be something to it, but if all Xbox 360 Arcade games need to have a demo, the answer could lie there. I’m not into demos at all, except for a few yearly franchises (NHL), I rarely plays a demo.

    I remember playing the Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune demo back in the day and it really turned me off. Wasn’t going to buy the game, but then all the ravings about it made me change my mind. It has since gone on to be my favorite game franchise. Therefore, I almost never play a demo. I make up my mind in other ways about games.

  2. This issue was talked about last year sometime.

    Obviously a poor demo is going to hinder sales, but I find even a good demo prevents me buying a game.

    I get caught up in all the pre-release hype and can’t wait to buy a game then the demo comes along and quenches my thirst leaving me to think about waiting a few weeks for a price drop… which often means I don’t bother at all.

    • That’s an interesting angle. I said below I couldn’t see how a good demo would put you off but this is a valid reason. You could get swept up in the hype and then find that, enjoyable as the demo is, it didn’t (and never could have) lived up to that. If there’d been no demo it would have taken your purchase of the game to find that out.

  3. Cor, what a topic. Fascinating, albeit limited, results. I want demos galore so I can try those games that I’m not instantly taken with. However, the door swings both ways on a demo and it means I’ll be turned off from throwing down the necessary moola when I try something and it doesn’t quite resonate with me.

  4. It’s a weird one. On the one hand demos should reduce sales IF the game is poor and the demo is representative. Pre-release demos may not represent the game so could put off buyers who actually would have enjoyed the full game if they’d tried it.

    I can’t see how a demo of a good game, assuming it was final code, can put you off. What I take the data to show is that demos help people avoid bad purchases. Good for us but perhaps not so good for the publishers of shoddy games being sold on promises and whizbang trailers.

  5. I’ve played lots of games demos where I think I would buy the game, and end up not purchasing because either the demo was rubbish or I got my fix of the game and wasn’t interested in buying the full game.

  6. I didn’t buy NFS Hot Pursuit because I thought the demo was terrible. Burnout 3 is one of my favourite games and reviews made it out like HP was more of a burnout game than Paradise was. The demo however completely put me off.

    I bought it second hand recently after EA removing the online passes and it’s great! Not quite B3, bit certainly proof that a poor demo completely put me off a game that in the end I thoroughly enjoyed.

    • I really enjoyed the demo a played it abit too much so bought the game and was bored a couple of hours in.

  7. Interesting data… If there is a trailer then a demo could halve sales, yet the data also seems to show that if there is NO trailer, a demo could double sales. Clearly it’s got more to do with the trailers than the demo, no?

    • A well made trailer (Dead Island) can get you very excited for a mediocre game (Dead Island), so I can understand why this is true.

      Personally I only find demos of use in games I am unsure about, I find they are often poor representations of a game as a whole. The first 30mins of a game is always the weakest, you need time for the story and characters to take hold.

      That said, I remember playing the demo for Heavy Rain and was so utterly sold by the short bit of narrative, I would have gone out and bought it that day if I could.

      • I was just pointing out that according to the data listed above it shows that demos BOTH halve AND double sales.. Just to clarify.. ;)

  8. Maybe a lot of games just aren’t that good! If something like Colonial Marines had a demo, you could see how that would hinder sales. Instead, the hype from a few trailers was enough to shift semi-decent units.

  9. I remember some demos, like Bomberman World on the PS1, had enough content that meant I didn’t need to buy the game, I could just keep playing the demo.

  10. THPS2 demo disc for PS1 got RIIIIIIIIINSED!!! Even had a park editor bit, so kept us occupied for months. Ahhh, the good old days!

    • The THPS TSA-meets are STILL going strong!!!

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