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It's Time for Playable Demos to Make a Huge Comeback


It's Time for Playable Demos to Make a Huge Comeback

Try before you buy needs a comeback.

Today’s gaming marketplace is inundated with products. Across every platform and every genre, more and more fantastic games are being released every day. The temptation to part with hard-earned cash can be pretty…tempting…but more often than not we probably find ourselves listening to that little voice in our heads that asks: “But what if it sucks?”

There are trailers. There are screenshots. There are reviews. But ultimately in the world of gaming there is only one true determination as to whether a game will be worth the money. In yon olden days, sometimes discs packed with these would be tucked away inside PC gaming magazines. They were golden. They were vital.

They were the playable demos.

Dem good 'ole days...

Dem good ‘ole days…

Because let’s be truly honest: games rarely play out like their cinematic trailers. The concept is incredibly strange, really. Here’s a product that has to succeed based on how fun it is to interact with it. Logically, one would provide an example of that interaction in order to sell the game.

Oddly enough, that practice has largely fallen to the wayside. Except for some wonderful companies upholding the practice, the idea of a playable demo disappeared a long time ago. This is marvellously ironic given that the overall landscape of gaming has firmly changed from a physical to a digital one. So now that we aren’t as reliant on physical media, digital demos should be easily available!

Yet, the opposite seems to be the case thus far . A swift look at Steam’s latest demos shows only a few indie titles. Not a single major game released recently offers a free trial. Slightly better is the PSN. Featuring a bunch of popular titles like Destiny, Life is Strange, Far Cry 4 and Final Fantasy XIV: a Realm Reborn, each of these and more boasts a free demo.


MMO trials are almost mandatory; otherwise it’d be potentially wasting tons of cash.

MMOs typically offer such trials so this isn’t too surprising. Seeing such incredible titles getting the treatment is also a great thing. But what about Evolve? Why didn’t Bloodborne or Dragon Age Inquisition get a free demo? Why hasn’t one been announced for The Witcher 3?

Perhaps this is less of a problem for long-running series, but perhaps not. Had I personally been given a chance to demo Dragon Age Inquisition I never would have purchased it. When new and expensive games are premiering, one must ensure that the chunk of change they’re about to part with is going toward a good investment. Gamers have a lot of options and a finite amount of cash; choosing which new title to indulge in isn’t easy.

And what about gamers looking to branch out of their comfort zone? There are great examples of demos for the many visual novels that are practically infesting Steam lately, but it’s still not widespread. Games like Princess Evangile and eden* are free to try, but there are tons of new titles released every day – and they aren’t cheap. Can publishers reasonably expect someone to dump cash into a game that might turn out to be their new least favorite?


What if that anime-looking game that just got released turns out to be the next Long Live the Queen?

Free demos can change this – but how?

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