Back in the earlier days of gaming, demos where a staple of the video game industry. I remember regularly picking up an Official Xbox/PlayStation Magazine to check out the game disc on the front that had a handful of demos of upcoming games to play. Those days have long since vanished though and there hasn’t really been a replacement. Last generation, Xbox 360 introduced a requirement that all Xbox Live Arcade games needed a demo, but apart from that, the game demo appeared to have died. Well, I say it died but it’s not like games no longer had demos. Every year at E3 there are hundreds of game demos for attendees to play, but they’re never made public.
E3 game demos may never see the public light of day but Nintendo has been making moves to put out more demos for its customers. Two of the bigger Nintendo games for this month are Octopath Traveler and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. Both of these titles have demos available on the eShop. Last month’s Mario Tennis Aces had an online demo that allowed gamers to try it out before launch. The month before that was Kirby Star Allies, which also had a demo. It seems as though every game Nintendo has a hand in is getting a demo.
Demos are great for both publishers and for gamers. From the publisher side, it is a good way to get your game into the hands of gamers and tease them enough that it makes them want to buy the game. This has certainly worked in my case as I wasn’t that sure about Octopath Traveler, but having put three hours into the JRPG, I’m hooked and went as far as preordering the game. If you have confidence in your product (and it’s a good enough product), then giving your consumers a taste should be enough to encourage sales.
From a gamer’s perspective, what is there not to love about a demo? We’re often on a budget, so the option of some free gaming is always welcome. It can also help to decide what is worthy of your hard-earned cash. Reviews are great (obviously Nintendo Enthusiast ones are particularly good), but nothing beats getting your own hands on the game and trying it out for yourself. It helps make purchases low-risk in terms of whether you’ll actually enjoy it or not. If you have spent 30+ minutes enjoying a demo, the likelihood is that you’ll enjoy the main game. It also makes gamers more adventurous, trying out genres and types of games that they wouldn’t normally touch.
In fact, the only people for who demos have a downside are the developers themselves. It takes time and effort to create a demo and they would much rather be putting that into the main game itself. The quandary developers face (particularly indie devs who are really strapped for cash) is that a demo is likely to help sell your product but you could potentially compromise your product by creating one through running out of funds or giving too much away. This is obviously not such an issue for first-party studios working for Nintendo, but for smaller companies, it can be a real concern.
Nintendo has been great with demos for quite a while now with demos appearing on Wii U and in particular on 3DS. It is during this generation that they really stand out though as their competitors have avoided the practice nearly altogether. The eShop for Switch is awash with demos and this has to have a positive effect on game sales or Nintendo wouldn’t continue to support them. And I do hope this continues as it’s always great to check out a game before you have to put your money down. Bravo Nintendo for thinking of fans as well as your profits!