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.