Demo or No Demo at All?

Zeha pointed out that some developers suggest having ONLY a video and NO demo. I’m quite sure there can be found arguments for both views, but I think in the end it boils down to simple math and testing:

First you one can test selling your game by showing only a video and NO demo. After you’ve done this test you can easily see how well (or poorly) “video + no demo” method works. After this (or using separate website) you can test using video AND demo. Now by comparing the results you can tell which method worked better and continue in that direction.

If you have lots of newsletter subscribers, you could construct the test by sending 10% of the people the “video and NO demo” and to 10% “video AND demo”. After this you can tell which 10% performs better, and then you send either video with demo (or no depending which 10% performed better) to the rest 80% of the subscribers.

Making arguments is okay, but I personally think this is a matter of testing and analyzing the results rather than giving opinions.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Yeah that’s cool ;)

    We plan to perhaps promote our next game with an own website, but only showing black silhouettes of our characters and such. But something like that could be combined really cool with “unofficial leaked promotion” ;)

    I think the “shorter demo” is also great. So you’ll just give the player 5 levels instead of 15, but the video will tell him “look at those great levels (you can’t play right now, hahaha)” :)

  2. The video can also be used to make a shorter demo and then show the player gameplay video of the rest of the game.

    Making those videos some kind of hidden content, for example having to search for them in youtube (sth not difficult at all) can give the visitor the feeling of being a fan even before buying the game. This is just a random thought, but i always think making the visitor to get involved makes him/her feel more related to the product.

    What about an experiment: ‘promotion by mistery’, don´t show anything official, just ‘leak’ content and create hype. No official demo, no offical video, no official screenshots…
    However, this would work better with AAA :P

  3. @ none:

    But I think one of the coolest things about having a video is the possibility to show it DIRECTLY. Just embed the youtube-player on your homepage and the user has to push exactly one button to see your game. That is a real kick instead of downloading, waiting, installing, clicking “next” at least 5 times, then launching, watching intro, being asked if fullscreen or windowed and such…

    So a non-playable demo would just be not having to learn the controls. This is a point, of course. But in my opinion that’s the only point (aside from seeing if it runs perfectly on your computer).

  4. Still, I’ve downloaded indie games that have not worked on my PC even when it meets the minimum requirements, sometimes a library is missing or something is just broken and the game does not work.

    I think a non interactive demo would be better than a video, you download it and get to see the actual game running, you just can’t play, you get better image quality than a video and you are seeing if the thing will run on your computer. Of course you could use this and a video for lazy people or whatever…

  5. Around Doom time (and PS1 time) I used to play demos and the buy games but now I have now time so I just read reviews (of AAA games for PC/console) and buy thoses, it works well. As for Indie games I play the demos then buy so it’s different for sure.

  6. Oh, I should have added that I was thinking in the context of “downloadable indie games” rather than “AAA” titles…

    I think I’ve bought all non-indie PC games either by getting recommended or reading a good review about them. Hmm, actually Battlefield 1942 is probably the only game which demo I tested and then eventually purchased the full version.

  7. Yes, that was discussed in the forums as well.

    And it’s correct, of course! But honestly, I think, most (casual) gamers don’t even think of that. You are a developer, so you’re aware of issues like that, but e.g. if a normal PC user goes to a retail store and buys a game, he’ll just look to the minimum requirements – if even. He surely would not go home again and first try to search for a demo to look if it REALLY runs.

    So I think that’s an argument that doesn’t count too much, after all. But of course it’s good to think about it, nonetheless.

  8. In PC games, demos are a must, because you don’t know if the game will even run in your computer! So you need to test it works… That’s a problem not present in consoles.

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