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Developer: Demos Kill Sales

PCGamesN links to a D.I.C.E. SUMMIT 2013 Keynote Speech by Puzzle Clubhouse creator Jesse Schell where the CEO of Schell Games makes the interesting, if counter-intuitive case that releasing a demo for a game hurts sales, and that the key to successfully marketing a game is to make players want to try it without giving them a chance to. He offers a chart of the "Hype Curve" of marketing a game, which contains data points with disturbing labels such as "Peak of Inflated Expectations" and "Trough of Disillusionment," and offers the following personal perspective on how this works, at least in the case of his game: "You mean we spent all this money making a demo and getting it out there, and it cut our sales in half?," he asks himself, before answering: "Yes, thatís exactly what happened to you." Thanks Joao.

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37. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 13, 2013, 09:02 Jonjonz
 
Idiot. Guess he never heard of DOOM, or stacks of other top sellers that started their runs with free demos.

He should say the truth, which is demos are a bad idea of your game is a piece of crap.
 
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36. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 13, 2013, 08:34 WaltC
 
Beamer wrote on Feb 12, 2013, 16:43:

Nothing you are saying is supported in fact.
For one, you have ZERO numbers showing that a decent demo of a decent game increases sales, let alone "2X." This guy has numbers that prove the opposite.

So argue his interpretation, don't throw out gibberish.

And the idea that people are going to bootleg a game to see if they like it is also absurd. The try-before-you-buy crowd isn't terribly large. Even the people here that do it mostly admit they buy it at a later date at a later price.
Plus he's discussing the 360, not the PC, making this a much more difficult thing to do.
Lastly, the games that routinely don't get demos, like Skyrim, Mass Effect, Modern Warfare, etc., all do extremely well and sell extremely fast without them. Their sales are very much day 1 and week 1 sales. A demo, which would come out around the time of release, wouldn't speed that up. At best it slows it down. Those consumers aren't swayed by demos at all, to them the prior game in the series or by the developer is the demo.

Also, yes, people sell more games when reviews aren't published. Had those Colonial Marines reviews come out last week I guarantee there would have been more preorders canceled. There's a reason Hollywood routinely does this.

I don't think your reading comprehension is very good. I said *decent* demo...The idea that a good demo is going to hurt a game's sales is about as intelligent as thinking that a good game review is going to hurt game sales. It's just not true.

Yes, this idiot was indeed speaking about the xBox and I was speaking about the far superior gaming platform--the PC. But I don't even know why someone would discuss game demos on an xBox. I don't own an xBox for gaming, and the crowd that does is already way, way behind in the gaming appreciation department, anyway...;)

The simple truth is that it's ludicrous to say that a good demo of a game--again, emphasis on the word "good" or "decent"--will hurt your sales. That's exactly like saying a good game review will hurt your sales--it is a stupid thought. It's puzzling why you would be so ready to believe it.

Games like CoD etc, do not count because people are already very familiar with these cookie-cutter style games and know exactly what to expect by virtue of having played the earlier games in the series. Talk about Skyrim--people with xBoxen should hardly bother--as the game without mods is 100% a different and inferior game. The way to play Skyrim is not on an xBoxen.

Besides, Skyrim does indeed have a demo of sorts showing actual gameplay. Take a look at the gameplay demo and listen to Bethesda's background narration as they tell what they've done in the game and if you still think that it hurt the game's sales then I feel sorry for you...;)

Skyrim was an exceptionally well-promoted game in advance of its shipping, including demonstrations of actual gameplay, and that is one of the reasons it sold as well as it did from the start--people had a very good idea of what to expect *and they liked it.* But all of this is just common sense. Sure, if you put out a *bad demo* that makes your game appear to be crap--then yea, you can expect it will hurt sales, just like bad game reviews hurt sales. But nobody is talking about *bad* demos, good grief. The assumption is that if a company knows how to make a good game it can make a good demo. Demos are traditional--who buys a car without a demo?--books are constantly promoted by demos by way of sample chapters printed all over the place, movies are constantly demoed and advertised prior to release--nah, the smart money says to create a good demo of your product in advance of its release and you do yourself a big favor. Nobody anywhere is advising the creation of a bad demo that will *hurt* sales--that's just idiotic.



This comment was edited on Feb 13, 2013, 08:42.
 
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35. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 22:59 Closed Betas
 
Golwar wrote on Feb 12, 2013, 18:56:
I agree with Schell's statement, it makes sense.

I can't remember when a demo made me buy a game the last time, when I initially didn't already plan to purchase it. Kingdoms of Amalur might have been the last candidate, though I didn't end up buying that game.

I generally don't play that many demos anymore these days. Those are imho relicts from an age before the internet. When you only had 1-3 gaming magazines and no other sources. Today we have instant access to tons of reviews and opinions, not to mention all those videos.
Add on top the experience of some dozens years of gaming and ... uh, whatfor would I really really need a demo?

Well if your like me, you realize that demo's were also an abused form of marketing by guess who... EA

I recall trying a demo out of the new Tiger Woods Golf game back in the day.. play the 17th hole at Sawgrass..

The demo was awesome, the gameplay felt so real.... got the game... the WAS NOTHING LIKE IT.. the gameplay was nothing like the demo, the graphics was nothing like the final product!!

Could tell the demo was so optimized and glorified the game play...... So much, i told all my friends the game sucked...
once again.. demo kills sales i guess, but bottom line was the product quality was the ultimate reason

I hope i didnt just train more idiots into cheating their demos by overpolishing phoniness
 
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34. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 22:53 Closed Betas
 
ViRGE wrote on Feb 12, 2013, 20:10:
Narf2029 wrote on Feb 12, 2013, 17:42:
DEMOS KILL SALES: A demo of a shitty game lets people know it's shitty before they buy. Thus, less sales. Next!
Am I the only one that sees this slightly differently? That this isn't about game quality?

Demos don't kill the sales of games based on their quality, but rather based on their hype. If you throw an 8 digit marketing campaign behind a game, you're going to build up a ton of hype for that game. People are going to be talking about your game, theorizing about your game, wanting your game. The entire point of marketing is to create demand for a product; to convince consumers that they absolutely must buy your game.

To that end, releasing a demo is shooting yourself in a foot. You've spent all this money creating demand, so the last thing you want to do is to give consumers a way to satiate their demand for free. If there's a demo, some portion of the consumer base is going to have their product lust satisfied. Conversely withholding a demo means that the only way they can satisfy that lust is to buy the game.

When purchasing decisions are based on emotions and irrationality, demos are your enemy. Demos are for people making rational decisions, which is not what heavily hyped AAA games are going for.

Naah, Rule #1
Know who your market is....
Your market is kids, most probably don't have a ton of money...
You want them to try and play a game, then they will invest what little they have...

2 problems... Too much selection, too much crap... = DEMO KILLS SALES.... a good product can never lose from a demo, its nothing short of HYPE, it is the hype.. it's even better, its the hook
but people don't pay for crap.. .and sorry crap is all thats out there on a grand scale
 
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33. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 20:14 netnerd85
 
Golwar wrote on Feb 12, 2013, 18:56:
uh, whatfor would I really really need a demo?
Nothing beats hands on experience.
 
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32. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 20:10 ViRGE
 
Narf2029 wrote on Feb 12, 2013, 17:42:
DEMOS KILL SALES: A demo of a shitty game lets people know it's shitty before they buy. Thus, less sales. Next!
Am I the only one that sees this slightly differently? That this isn't about game quality?

Demos don't kill the sales of games based on their quality, but rather based on their hype. If you throw an 8 digit marketing campaign behind a game, you're going to build up a ton of hype for that game. People are going to be talking about your game, theorizing about your game, wanting your game. The entire point of marketing is to create demand for a product; to convince consumers that they absolutely must buy your game.

To that end, releasing a demo is shooting yourself in a foot. You've spent all this money creating demand, so the last thing you want to do is to give consumers a way to satiate their demand for free. If there's a demo, some portion of the consumer base is going to have their product lust satisfied. Conversely withholding a demo means that the only way they can satisfy that lust is to buy the game.

When purchasing decisions are based on emotions and irrationality, demos are your enemy. Demos are for people making rational decisions, which is not what heavily hyped AAA games are going for.
 
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31. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 20:07 Nate
 
Buying a poor game which had misleading marketing and no way to see actual gameplay before purchase causes me to not trust that company in the future. And likely no more purchases from them.  
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30. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 18:56 Golwar
 
I agree with Schell's statement, it makes sense.

I can't remember when a demo made me buy a game the last time, when I initially didn't already plan to purchase it. Kingdoms of Amalur might have been the last candidate, though I didn't end up buying that game.

I generally don't play that many demos anymore these days. Those are imho relicts from an age before the internet. When you only had 1-3 gaming magazines and no other sources. Today we have instant access to tons of reviews and opinions, not to mention all those videos.
Add on top the experience of some dozens years of gaming and ... uh, whatfor would I really really need a demo?
 
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29. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 18:25 Closed Betas
 
Narf2029 wrote on Feb 12, 2013, 17:42:
DEMOS KILL SALES: A demo of a shitty game lets people know it's shitty before they buy. Thus, less sales. Next!

Lol, so they finally admit the true reason... Nope not about putting all effort into the product, not about anything but making sure they scam the customer.
 
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28. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 18:13 Erebus
 
I agree that demos kill sales, both for a crappy game and a great one.

What a demo most definitely kills is the development cycle, introducing a major milestone at a time when it's most critical to be focused on the development of the actual game. Demos can become and end not a means, distracting and deflecting needed resources.

Good call.
 
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27. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 17:42 Narf2029
 
DEMOS KILL SALES: A demo of a shitty game lets people know it's shitty before they buy. Thus, less sales. Next!  
Huh? I'm sorry, I was thinking about cake.
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26. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 16:43 Beamer
 
WaltC wrote on Feb 12, 2013, 16:36:
What he meant to say was:

"If you created a decent demo to highlight your decent game, then you probably sold 2x as many copies as you would have without the demo."

"Seriously, we sold 2x what we would have otherwise?"

"Yup."

The idea that people are going to put ~$50 into a game faster if it has no demo is absurd. What they'll do is bootleg it first to see if they like it and then maybe they'll buy the game later if they do. Only an idiot would think consumers are fooled by the absence of a demo. It's almost like saying, "If your game never gets reviewed you'll sell 2x the number of copies you would have sold with game reviews published." People who think like this are the reason some games don't do as well as they should have. And, demo or review or no, if a game stinks a developer has no right expecting mega sales from it under any conditions. The problem is that people like this think it is possible to "fool" consumers into buying lots and lots of crummy games. They are only fooling themselves.



Nothing you are saying is supported in fact.
For one, you have ZERO numbers showing that a decent demo of a decent game increases sales, let alone "2X." This guy has numbers that prove the opposite.

So argue his interpretation, don't throw out gibberish.

And the idea that people are going to bootleg a game to see if they like it is also absurd. The try-before-you-buy crowd isn't terribly large. Even the people here that do it mostly admit they buy it at a later date at a later price.
Plus he's discussing the 360, not the PC, making this a much more difficult thing to do.
Lastly, the games that routinely don't get demos, like Skyrim, Mass Effect, Modern Warfare, etc., all do extremely well and sell extremely fast without them. Their sales are very much day 1 and week 1 sales. A demo, which would come out around the time of release, wouldn't speed that up. At best it slows it down. Those consumers aren't swayed by demos at all, to them the prior game in the series or by the developer is the demo.

Also, yes, people sell more games when reviews aren't published. Had those Colonial Marines reviews come out last week I guarantee there would have been more preorders canceled. There's a reason Hollywood routinely does this.
 
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25. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 16:36 WaltC
 
What he meant to say was:

"If you created a decent demo to highlight your decent game, then you probably sold 2x as many copies as you would have without the demo."

"Seriously, we sold 2x what we would have otherwise?"

"Yup."

The idea that people are going to put ~$50 into a game faster if it has no demo is absurd. What they'll do is bootleg it first to see if they like it and then maybe they'll buy the game later if they do. Only an idiot would think consumers are fooled by the absence of a demo. It's almost like saying, "If your game never gets reviewed you'll sell 2x the number of copies you would have sold with game reviews published." People who think like this are the reason some games don't do as well as they should have. And, demo or review or no, if a game stinks a developer has no right expecting mega sales from it under any conditions. The problem is that people like this think it is possible to "fool" consumers into buying lots and lots of crummy games. They are only fooling themselves.


 
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24. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 15:36 Ecthelion
 
The only bad demo for a good game that I can recall was Hitman Blood Money. I wonder if it hurt sales any... the negative impact of the demo may have been offset (and then some) by the fact that it was a sequel though, and not everyone played the demo of course.

Thankfully I had an open mind about the game and decided to get it anyway (and ended up enjoying even more than the previous games in the series, besides the demo level), but if anyone based their purchase solely on that demo, they likely decided to hold off.

So yeah, as other people said, the lesson here is that you need a good demo, and more importantly a good game.

Mr Casual Game Developer needs to work on making good games, then maybe he'll see demos can actually help.
 
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23. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 14:48 LaxerFL
 
Let me correct this: "Shitty demos kill sales"

There, it's fixed. If your game is good and I play the good demo, of course I'm going to want more. If your game sucks ass and the demo shows it, then why the hell would I blow $50 or $60 on the game?

The stupidity of people never ceases to amaze me.

The first demo I ever played was for a game called Kingpin, WAYYY back in 1998 or 1999. The demo was over 100MB and at that time, it took me a day to download it LOL. I had so much fun with the demo, I bought the game the day it came out. Still to this day I consider it the PC game that got me started in PC gaming all because the demo was so much fun. I still have the demo saved on a ZIP disc somewhere (though I don't think I have the Iomega Zip Drive anymore...)

The closed/open beta for Diablo 2 (I can't remember which it was) was my first introduction to games of that type. The first time I equipped a plain white axe on my character's ragdoll, I was hooked. D2 was the first game I ever pre-ordered.

If developers make good games, and release a demo that shows off how good the game it, I will buy the game. If a game LOOKS good but there is no demo, I pirate it. If I like it, I buy it. It is as simple as that.

I live in the real world where people who work on good products need to get paid to continue working on good products. If your game sucks so bad you are embarrassed to release a demo, you don't deserve my hard earned money, PERIOD. Games have gotten to expensive to roll the dice with my $50-60. I'm not rich. I can't afford to burn 100's of dollars taking chances that games will be good.

Guild Wars 2 and Diablo 3 are the latest examples. I consider both of them total wastes of money. If I had gotten into a beta test or if there was a demo/X day free trial I would never have flushed my $60/each down the toilet.
World of Warcraft's 14 day free trial just saved me a ton of money too. I was literally 4 button presses away from buying the whole series when I noticed the 2 week trial. An hour into it I realized Blizzard had ruined yet another game I used to love and was so grateful I saved my money.

Dear Devs,
Stop making shit games. Release demos/free trials when you make good games. It couldn't be easier.

TL;DR
Shitty demos kill sales
Quality demos boost sales

That is all,
Lax
 
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22. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 14:22 jdreyer
 
SpectralMeat wrote on Feb 12, 2013, 09:46:
InBlack wrote on Feb 12, 2013, 09:42:
SpectralMeat wrote on Feb 12, 2013, 09:37:
Developer: Demos Shitty games Kill Sales
Looks much better.
Speaking of no demos better sales, let's see how well the new Aliens game does in sales. It had no demo so it should do exceptionally well in sales right?
If it won't, well then lets blame piracy on that one.

I wish that were true, it aint though. Im guessing that the game probably sold a shitload through preorders alone. It will probably break even since Randy and Co. outsourced its production to China or god knows where for peanuts...
We'll see. I doubt other then the preorders they will sell a ton of copies. Ones people see the reviews and the word of mouth on forums and other media forms like twitter etc. I doubt their sales will be anywhere near expected, but I might be wrong.
However based on my experience with games, shitty games will not sell regardless of demos, good one will look at Skyrim.

Skyrim was based on existing IP by the same company and had a long and excellent track record. Arena and Daggerfall both had demos, IIRC.
 
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21. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 14:12 m00t
 
In an effort to give this guy the benefit of the doubt, the only way I can see "Demos killing Sales" being a reasonable thing is if they botched the demo:
1. Buggy, not representative of the actual game.
2. Bad packaging or too constraining, not showing enough of the game. Or just plain nagging.
3. Not restrictive enough, basically giving the game for free, or enough of it that people have no reason to buy it. This is fairly rare but some people can get what they want out of the demo and not need the rest of the game to entertain themselves.

That said, this guy is dumb.
 
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20. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 13:38 Beamer
 
Frags4Fun wrote on Feb 12, 2013, 13:34:
Yeah, they sure do hurt sales, if the game sucks to begin with.

Some good games have bad demos.
And other games have too good demos. While I'm sure GTA and Carmageddon sold very well due to word of mouth from their demos, I also think the demos were so satisfying (especially if you removed the time limit) that they made actually purchasing the game superfluous.

Same for Quarantine. Loved that demo! I put dozens upon dozens of hours into those three demos and sadly never bought the games. Can't imagine I was the only one.
 
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19. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 13:38 DeadlyAccurate
 
If he's concluding that every person who tried out the demo and didn't buy the game would have instead bought the game if there were no demo, he's making the same mistake companies make when they deduce that all pirate downloads = lost sales.

Demos will keep players from wasting their money on mediocre or poor games, true, but you shouldn't be trying to sell mediocre or poor games to the public. Make good games you want to play; don't make crap only because you're hoping to fleece the public out of some cash before they wise up. If you're going to do that, be honest with what you are: a con artist.
 
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18. Re: Developer: Demos Kill Sales Feb 12, 2013, 13:34 Frags4Fun
 
Yeah, they sure do hurt sales, if the game sucks to begin with.  
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