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. I guess it might be true to a certain extent, though nowadays I don’t really have time to try most demos, I put my game time in the full game instead.

  2. I’ve found that if a game has a demo I won’t buy it until I’ve at least tried the demo (unless it’s on sale). I have demo’s unplayed on my PS3 for months, if not longer. If there isn’t a demo I’m more likely to impulsively buy it.

    I can see why demo’s can do more harm than good.

    If I do play a demo and it’s good I’m more likely to spend more on the full game.

  3. Absolutely impossible to really qualify this without some sort of scientific process behind the study.

    As is rightly pointed out in the news post, it doesn’t take into account what games are getting demos, reviewing well, traditionally sell incredibly well etc. etc. There are far too many variables to take into account.

    CoD doesn’t get a demo and sells millions and millions of copies each year, whilst FIFA pulls the same trick and does have a demo. Or what about “beta tests” for big games like BF3 or Uncharted 3? Are these counted as demos?

    It’s really impossible to say, as this is a very complicated thing to figure out. As with all marketting tools, a demo can have a positive effect or a negative one. It can raise awareness and really show off a game’s strengths in the run up to launch, or it can put people off with a poorly picked race track or section of a game.

  4. hard to know definitively if a demo hurts or hinders most games.
    with bad games it can definitely hurt them, but is that such a bad thing?

    i know there have been quite a few games i bought on the strength of the demo.

    on the whole though, i think letting people try before they buy is generally a good thing.

    i’m sure we’ve all bought at least one game that was truly awful and felt like such a waste of money a bikini wax would have been a better, and likely more pleasurable, purchase.

    • make that less painful, not more pleasurable.

  5. If all trailers were actually gameplay footage, demos wouldn’t be needed at all (imo.) Always bewilders me, why we see (spoiler) cinematics in trailers.

  6. Very interesting data. I’ve been wondering why there have been so few demos of retail games lately compared to the early PSN days, this story says it all. I guess a few cleverly edited clips can get our imaginations fired up without sating the desire to try the game, so we then shell out on the promise of the experience rather than the taste of the experience that the demo provides. I suppose we needed demos last generation because streaming video was still in its infancy, now it’s commonplace and totally free.

  7. Make the game better and then people would buy the full version if the demo didn’t suck.

  8. This is interesting and somewhat topical, for me at least! I’ve recently found the TSA podcast so am slowly working my way through the episodes. I’ve just listened to the one where one of the guys (sorry! I’m useless with names) had played The Last of Us demo and was completely non plused by it. He went on to explain that it was because he lacked the context and story behind the sections it contained. I think that’s the problem and some games (annoying, the ones you probably want to try before you buy!) just aren’t suited to demos

  9. If you release a demo and your game is crap then you deserve poor sales, games without demos are usually big enough (established fan base, large budgets) to be in a position where they dont have to worry about releasing a demo , like GTA / CoD. For the prices todays AAA games cost i think a demo is essential

    I would probably never have played the MGS series had I not got a demo with my PS1 game (cant remember what it was now, maybe ISS Pro or Bishi Bashi)…

  10. Maybe it says something about the quality of demos and that more effort is needed in producing a good one.

    I had no interest in buying SSX, I was waiting for ME3 to come out. I tried the demo and bought it day one. Produce a good demo and you will grab people.

    • I think SSX is that particular type of game where you know you’re getting more of the same, like Madden and Fifa games, so the demo worked beautifully to get you hooked. Plus it had that The Naked And Famous track, that got me fucking hooked, they’re in the UK this winter by the way!

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