No demo?!?!

Graev asks why most MMOs don’t have demos available straight away at launch. Here’s a handful of reasons I can think of:

1)      Resources needed to implement a demo

To make a demo version of the game available requires support across the business. You need to code in any modifications to the game – such as the limited levels, chat or abilities which Graev refers to. You need to code changes to ensure that triallists cannot negatively impact on the experience of full players.

You need to have support systems and people to manage issues stemming from trial>live upgrades and general trial issues. And finally you need to bolster your platforms to survive the onslaught on legions of new players looking to poke about in your treasured title.

These all take people away who could be working on the live game.

2)      Sales reasons

A certain proportion of gamers will buy a new title purely based on hype alone, or to be part of the launch event that everyone is talking about. The thinking goes it is better to capitalize on the day 1 sales and try and win over the on-the-fencers at a later date. Why risk these sales with a free trial – particularly if the launch version is a buggy mess?

3)      Unaware of the importance of trials

When I used to read Commodore Amiga magazines, each issue came with a cover (floppy) disk with several demos/shareware games. Developers understood that the only way to get publicity for their titles and to stand out in the market place was to let the games speak for themselves. Today the message that a demo will enable you to sell more games has become lost knowledge. I’m not sure publishers fully appreciate the revenue uplift available from making some of their content accessible for free.

Hopefully more PC publishers/developers will take a hint from the mobile apps world, where free demos are ubiquitous and understood as the strongest marketing tool in the box. With free betas now out of the window, try before you buy is still as important as ever.

About bernardparsnip

Gamer, Blogger, Poet
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4 Responses to No demo?!?!

  1. Feliz says:

    With the year long, sometimes even multiple years hype game on forums, that demo disk isn’t needed anymore. The cost to keep the hype machine going is covered by the marketing budget. Just look at the recent SWTOR start: Two thirds of the subscribers had early access. For the remaining players they increased the number of servers by 50% and didn’t even get to fill them all.

    Yes, for the sceptics, for those who didn’t fall for the hype, some initiative is needed. But my wild guess is, there are maybe 5% of the players out there who’d wait for a trial. It’s really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    I found your blog through #nbimmo

    • Hi Feliz, thanks for popping by.

      To refer back to the Graev’s post, TERA is a game that has attracted a lot of skepticism due to its representation of female characters and rumours of using “grind” mechanics to elongate playtime.
      A demo trial at launch may have helped to reinforce how fun the gameplay is, as reported by Rohan is his blog (

      If I recall the launch of SWTOR correctly, the open beta weekend was very positively received and led to a number of the pre-launch orders which you refer to. I was highly skeptical of “the 4th pillar” until I saw it in action (The implementation has its own issues, but that’s a topic for another day).

  2. Vagabond says:

    Very good analysis.

    I think the number of companies who are not aware of the value of a trial is *diminishing*, but the other two are still strong reasons. Although, the second point is a two bladed sword: if the game doesn’t provide a good enough quality at launch, the player simply *returns* to the game he or she came from. And that is not a good thing for the company, as the cost turn-around point is usually down a few month along the line. I would rather plan for a smaller starting audience that will stay in the game for longer than a starting peak population that churns away after the free month, because in the second case the cost of building up a server park that can server the large population is an unneeded extra.

    • Absolutely agree about the benefits of starting with a smaller loyal audience. Focus on your niche and do it well.

      To put a Marketing hat on for a second, the only risk is that you lose the momentum and free advertising you get from being The Big Game Everyone Is Talking About. If we focus on very recent MMO history, there are only a couple of games that went on to grow well beyond their first quarter subscriber figures.

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