Game Demos May Hurt Overall Sales?

Puzzle Clubhouse and industry analyst CEO Jesse Schell gave a fascinating speech during DICE last week, and if you have twenty minutes of free time I suggest giving it a listen.

While he makes many valid, interesting points one of the more intriguing was when Schell displayed a graph that depicts game sales across the Xbox 360. (If you don’t want to watch the video in its entirety, jump to the 10:20 mark.)


The bottom line represents the sales of games that didn’t offer a trailer or demo. The second line represents games that offered a demo only, while the line above that represents games that offered both a demo AND a trailer.

Any guess as to what the top line represents? By the title of this post it’s probably obvious: the top line represents sales of games that only offered a trailer. No demo.

::mind asplode::

But once I thought about it for a solid 26 seconds or so my shock turned into “Yeah, that makes sense.” As Schell goes on to explain, a trailer (hopefully) piques curiosity of a game. Curiosity makes you want to try that game. If a demo is available, it would make more sense for you to try the demo without purchasing a full-fledged $60 game, right? So, if you try the demo and enjoy it, great — there’s a win for the game industry. Life goes on. Sales boom. Sweet.

Let’s say, though, the demo fills that curiosity meter piqued by the trailer, and once you’ve tried it, you’re no longer interested in the game. And ultimately, a purchase isn’t made. Congratulations, you have just crashed the video game industry. (I kid, I kid.) Whereas if there ISN’T a demo offered you’re “forced” to purchase the game. Granted, for true accurate data I imagine you’d have to take in rental services like GameFly and your gamer friends you like to mooch off of, but nonetheless, fascinating stuff.

What are your thoughts?


  1. Demos also let you know if the game is utter CRAP before you buy it. So you play the demo, see that it’s crap, and don’t buy it. The trailer shows you all the cool stuff, so you buy the game thinking it’s all cool stuff, and find out that the stuff in the trailer doesn’t happen in the game, and that the game is actually crap.

    The difference? $60.

    • Righto! It’s like, if you’re going to put out a demo make sure it serves its purpose to YOUR benefit. I remember a lot of folks complaining about the RE6 demo, and now Capcom is all butthurt because of the sales numbers.

  2. My thought is, if a game isn’t worth playing for more than the Demo, it’s not worth $60 for. I remember playing demos for games all the way back to Medievil with Playstation Underground discs. It was fun, but it didn’t feel right. Didn’t buy it. Same disc had Spyro the Dragon and Metal Gear Solid. Both games were fun, exciting, and both got bought.
    Same with Rachet and Clank 2; that demo literally got me into the series. I also bought DownHill Domination because of that same demo disc with R&C2.

    I honestly don’t BUY games anymore unless I get a demo, or play it at a friend’s house.

    So I’m gonna go ahead and call bullshit. Demos aren’t what’s hurting game sales.

    Lackluster games devoid of any satisfaction are. What that chart does NOT account for is how many people enjoyed the game they purchased. How many people beat it. Replayed it. That’s what matters to me, as a gamer who has to spend money that could go towards, for example, a movie.
    Why a movie? Because I’ve dropped $60 on games and played them for less than the run-time of movies. I paid six times as much to sit at home and be frustrated for two hours than to sit in a theatre, being entertained.
    And if a movie fails to entertain me, that’s only $10 lost; $50 less than a game.

    So I’ll say it again. Demos don’t hurt game sales; they help people who play games make better informed decisions.

  3. It really does make perfect sense, and I fit the mold perfectly of the top line. The only demo I’ve played in like the last bazillion years was Dead Space 3 and that was simply because I thought there might be some reward in the new game that comes from it. Through my own research and watching gameplay videos I can figure out if a game is for me or not, most of the time.

    Not to mention I love opening up that brand new wrapped game and experiencing the game right then and there, which I think demos would kind of take away from.

  4. Makes sense. Demos are supposed to be just that… a demo of a game you’re deciding on. If the demo doesn’t do it for you, you won’t buy it.

    Some games transcend that trend, of course. The super-anticipated titles will sell no matter what, but for those hanging over the edge, that demo is make-or-break. Usually, “break.”

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