Releasing a Demo Can Hurt Game Sales, Says Analyst

Lee Bradley

Games without demos sell better than games with demos. That’s the message delivered  by Puzzle Clubhouse CEO and analyst Jesse Schell at a DICE keynote this year.

Citing data from the video game research and consulting company EEDAR, Schell said that Xbox 360 games without a demo or a trailer sold less than 100,000 units on average. Meanwhile, those with just a demo sold around 200,000 and those with both a demo and a trailer averaged around 250,000. However, those with only a trailer averaged over 500,000.

"You mean we spent all this money making a demo and getting it out there, and it cut our sales in half?" said Schell, imitating a concerned publisher. "Yes, that's exactly what happened to you."

"People see the trailer and they're like 'that's cool!' and they made a plan. 'I gotta try that game!'" said Schell. "And then when they play the demo [and they think] 'alright I've tried that game. That was cool. I'm done.' But the things with no demo, you've got to buy it if you want to try it."

It’s an interesting report, one perhaps skewed by factors like marketing budgets and brand cache. A game like Call of Duty, for example, doesn’t really need a demo because those that intend to buy it have likely made up their minds long before release.

Meanwhile, for more niche prospects, demos can be a vital tool in letting potential consumers know that they may not have heard of a game, but they may well enjoy it.

[via PCGamesN]

  • It may be statistically true but I don't think it really is true. your last few paragraphs sum it up pretty well.
  • In general if the demo is shit, the game has more shit in stock. Look at dead space
  • Publishers that make great games don't have to worry. If they didn't release a demo, and the game was horrible when released, the word gets out and no one buys it (Duke Nukem) There are stores that still have that horrible game brand new for $10 and can't get rid of it. Kind of dinged either way in my opinion.
  • yer some games need demo, with prices on new games unless your sure your not going to get it then get stuck with turkey with hassle trying to trade it.
  • I thought this was common knowledge by now?
  • Demos aren't needed if you're on the fence about buying a game just rent it.
  • I think demos can have the opposite effect for some games. I've picked up some gems that I would of overlooked if it wasn't for the demo. A good example of this was Enslaved. I loved the demo and went out and bought the full game because of it.
  • It makes sense to do what they're saying, but it's not necessarily good for those of us who think about trying the game. I don't want to be forced to have a $60 coaster if I'm not going to like the game. Besides, nowadays you can watch gameplay videos before AND after the game comes out on youtube or wherever.
  • Thats because without a demo, most people will have to take pot luck with the actual game, and even if the person doesn't like it, to the publisher its another sale. The amount of times i've had to bite the bullet, and actually buy a new game because there wasn't a demo and regretted doing so is amazing. I was dead cert for the new Metal Gear Rising game thats coming out, but now i've tried the demo, I actually don't want the game. So it does make sense really.
  • Dead Rising 2 did it best by having an arcade games as the demo.
  • "You've got to buy it if you want to try it". Hello, my name is LoveFilm and I have something to talk to you about.
  • Why would someone go buy a $60 game, play it for 20 min and just go That was cool I'm done.
  • Well if you make a good game people will buy it. If you have a crap game people aren't gonna buy it regardless of a demo or not.
  • Do we really need an analyst to figure this one out? Demos and Betas prevented me from investing $60 several times. A demo is supposed to be one of the best portions of the full game. If that portion is shit, the rest is even shittier.
  • Just depends on the quality of the game: Vanquish (3 playthroughs), Just Cause 2 (played that 6 times! 30 minutes wasn't enough) and XCOM swayed me. Mass Effect 2's changed my mind from 'soon' to 'NOW NOW NOW NOW' However I've recently been put off Metal Gear Rising just from it's dull playing style. DmC didn't impress. Binary Domain's seriously crushed the raging hype boner I had for that game (Thought it would be fast like Vanquish but it was like Gears incased in treacle) Dead Space 3 had a pretty awful demo for a *horror* game, whereas to an established fan like me it was great demonstration of new play mechanics on offer. tl;dr The real question is; What kind of cunt buys a game based on a trailer alone? The same ones that see a movie based on a trailer I bet. Movies: Get good word of mouth then go in blind. Games: Gameplay first, always. Not Robert Downey Jr. flying a jet.
  • #7 I feel the same
  • Demos have sold me on games before. So no this is wrong.
  • This is common knowledge. Just look at the shitstorm also known as 'Medal of Honor: Warfighter'
  • So I guess we'll be seeing less demos in the future then.
  • Demos don't hurt sales because people are like "This is fine, I got the full experience". Demos hurt sales because they show you how shitty the game is likely to be. The only reason demos 'hurt sales' is because it means people are like "my god, I don't want to pay $60 for 5-15 hours of this terrible game". Trailers do better because you're not showing the bad parts of the game off. People are just getting excited by the good looking parts. It's deceiving, but a good business decision. But demos are necessary for niche titles for those who can't be bothered to rent because, I'm not spending money to try a game I may not like and then more money to buy it, and if I like it, I'm going to want to own it. Most games don't need them if they're similar enough to other games in the series, but demos also help games. To be honest, I can't express to you how many XBLA games I had no interest in, played the demo for shits and giggles, and wound up loving it and buying it as soon as possible. And like, I recently played the demo for Fire Emblem Awakening on the 3DS, having never really been interested in the series before, but I loved the demo. Totally sold me on it. @#12 - There's an entire article on Kotaku where someone was trying to suggest that that's all they do and they're totally fine with that. I can't stand that concept.
  • Well, that may be the case, however I'm one of the people who doesn't want to spend $60 game and then realize that it sucks. If developers really want to sell the game, they gotta make sure it's good enough to please the gamers. For me, $60 a pop is really expensive nowadays. There are several games that I know will buy $60 without a second thought (Halo and Call of Duty series for instance).
  • Depends when they release the demo. Sometimes they release a demo ages after when people no longer care and it doesn't affect anything.
  • Yes they hurt if your product is an over hype piece of trash, but if your focusing your efforts on creating a game than than advertising it then it will help.
  • I think I had a stroke or I know nothing of logistics (thank god), but isnt 100,000(no demo or trailer) units sold on average LESS than 250,000(demo and trailer) units sold on average. Aren't the bigger numbers better? Math IS the worst! Someone show me the light here.
  • Extra Credits actually made a episode based about demo's and how they in pretty much all cases don't help sale's overall for the developers.
  • hmm, i'm sure there bright people but have they thought about the sequal effect? sequals tend to have trailers only and only get demos a few months after launch to tempt more into buying for example the cod frqanchise is brought be so many because they liked the previous games in the series, not because it didn't have a demo
  • @10 Yeah, it was a really nice way to do a prequel sort of thing leading up to the game itself. Was pretty well done.
  • @24, that's what I was thinking. In fact, I did a double take to make sure I read it right. If anything, the article title should be reworded to say something else because the opening paragraph creates certainly a what the fuck? moment. Regarding the topic, I'm not really on board with this analysis. A vast majority of my arcade collection exists because I tried the free trial demo, and in some cases, I found interest in purchasing retail games, such as Catherine because of the demo.
  • Garbage message by a garbage analyst. Without any mention of what games he pulled data from, there's no way to assign any value to this. As #20 implied, it could be that the data this analyst pulled was from a game that sucked balls. Like many others here, I've bought a lot of games (especially XBLA/PSN games where you can't rent and are stuck with the purchase for life) based on their demos. Without a demo, those games would not have got my money because there's no way I risking money on every game that has a marketing blurb that makes it sound fun (which is all of them because that's the point of marketing). One major advantage the Xbox Live Marketplace has over the Playstation Store and the eShop is that there's a demo for everything that gets released to the Xbox Live Marketplace. Found so many good games I would have otherwise overlooked thanks to that, but I bet mister twat analyst there didn't think about that.
  • @24 and 28: Keep reading, dumbasses. Didn't you guys learn in middle school to always read something in its entirety? ...Nah, you guys probably dropped of school out before then.
  • The Crysis 3 Beta saved me 60€ the same is whit dead space 3... problem is sometimes they chose the wrong part,mission,level whatever for a demo DMC has the coolest level disign i see in a while 18 out of 20 missions are cool (for me) and capcom/NT chose the worst and most boring mission in the game ...
  • @24 - If a game has neither a trailer or a demo, it affects sales and they don't sell as many. However, if they have no trailer and only a demo, they sell a little more, but still not as much if they have just a trailer and no demo. How can that be difficult to understand?
  • i always rent games of lovefilm if i dont know if i want to buy it properly. don't like demos.
  • @30 & 32: Well now, maybe it was the wording of the quote, or the headline. They should've just said: "If you only have a trailer with your game, it will sell more". Right in the beginning, it says that a game without a demo or trailer is 100,000. From then it tells how much a demo with a game sells. Which was more than the one without a demo or trailer. Look I understand that it's saying a trailer NOT a demo can help your game sell more. Misleading article is all...
  • three future games stand out for me fallout 4 no need for demo . I love bethesda metro last night no demo no sale . hated metro 2033 aliens CM out this week . no demo but I might like this but I don't want to risk the money but I hated the sound of mass effect till the demo made me love it
  • also if no demo . you can watch a playthrough on YouTube that's how I got some games . after the YouTube video seemed good
  • The analyst has a point but even if some games doesn't come with a demo and I do spend $60 + tax. Play and don't like it. I'm just going to sell it on ebay and get around $50+/- back. Or I would wait til the price drop to half off, play and if I end up not liking it. Again, I'll sell it on ebay. But games I do like, of course I keep them.
  • So basically if you're well known and a scumbag developer making a mediocre game you should not include a demo in any way so ignorant people who don't know how to rent or research their game purchases will buy it at full price. While lesser known indie games can use it to get people who never in a million years play there game to try it out and hopefully have their minds changed.
  • Demos are definitely needed. They aren't necessary for those that are going to preorder and buy it day 1, but then there may be those that are on the fence about a game and want to try it out before making the plunge. Demos are good... Unless the game was changed since the demo was released. Burn in Hell, 2Xtreme for Playstation...
  • @34 - "Releasing a Demo On Its Own Or Releasing A Game Without A Trailer And A Demo Can Hurt Game Sales, Says Analyst" makes for a somewhat long article title. I'm happy that they release demos, but they can highlight just how crappy a game is. Resident Evil 6 had a shitty demo, that apparently wasn't the finished copy of the game. I guess we're still waiting for that finished copy...
  • @9 I completely agree with that statement. I have Metal gear Rising Collectors Edition paid off, and when I played the demo I cancelled the next day. Demos are a must, there is no excuse not to have a demo, like many have said, if you made a great game you have nothing to worry about.
  • I think it's great to get a demo before buying but it can be a double-edged sword. I was going to buy DmC as I love hack n slash action but after trying the demo I knew I won't be even touching the game (even though some people say it's very good but a lot of people I know say it's very bad). Then on the other hand Resident Evil 6 with a co-op demo was a lot of fun and I bought it day 1 with a friend and we enjoyed the co-op stories. Same was with Metal Gear Rising, I was gonna pass it as I liked MGS games they way they were but the demo was great and now I'm definitely gonna grab it. But like I said, releasing the demo has its ups and downs.
  • As Lee pointed out I'm sure these numbers are heavily skewed by game franchises like Call of Duty, Halo, Assassin's Creed etc... Triple-A games for the most part have no need for releasing a demo. Their million plus unit sales are guaranteed just by the name on the box. So if you include games like this in the statistics you get inaccurate results. It would be interesting to see which games they did include in the study. Depending on what games were included, publishers and developers should ignore this study and go by the following strategy: If you think your game is good, release a demo. It can't hurt it can only help, especially if its a slightly under the radar game. If you aren't confident in the quality of the game don't release a demo. A demo of a crappy game can only hurt sales.
  • for games i am iffy about i prefer demos to determine if i want the game. i was already banking on getting metal gear rising but the demo pretty much guaranteed to definately get it.
  • The only reason I bought the first Darksiders was because I loved the demo.
  • I've definitely bought many games as a result of a demo. But I've also avoided games as a result of a demo. And yes, I've bit the bullet several times and bought a game that didn't have a demo, and have regretted it. I appreciate demos even more on PC, where "Can You Run It?" has turned out to not always be accurate.Demos let me know if the game will actually even work on my PC. I appreciate demos a lot, but it makes sense that games without them sell more--if you want to try the game, even just to end up finding out it won't work or is crap, you'll have to buy (or rent) the game.
  • I wouldn't have bought Sniper Eilte V2 had it not been for the demo.
  • OR....people find out how crappy the game is and decide not to buy it. Demos are necessary for lesser known devs. Elder Scrolls, GTA and Bioshock would not need one.
  • True or not, I'd appreciate it if people kept their mouths shut on things like this. The last thing we want is the XBL market to be filled with shit we've never heard of, which is exactly would could happen if this fool keeps up his little crusade.
  • @6 : In some country, renting is illegal so no, that's not the way to go. I agree with some peoples here, often if the game don't sell well, it's because the demo showed the game isn't that good. For example, I decided after I played Dead Space 3 demo that I wouldn't buy this game (but I wouldn't have bought it without being able to test the demo anyway, so it's changed nothing).
  • its kinda messed up that there bitchin beacause its not our fault they put out a demo and it sucks and usaually means the game sucks so no one buys the real one, but when theres no demo people buy it and it sucks theres not much they can do about it
  • Then don't make a shit game? It's simple.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 had a demo.......
  • Quite a few times ive tried a demo of a game that I have no intention of buying and, having been impressed by the demo, went and bought the full game (Full Auto, Blur, Battlefield 2 MC) However, some games have also put me off buying them because of the demo (MOH Warfighter is the only preorder ive ever cancelled) Moral of the story? I wont buy a game if the demo is shit
  • *shown*
  • I laugh at when a demo comes out AFTER the game has been out ages but most games we dont even get one
  • In the days of YouTube and game forums you can discover everything without a demo just as well. The demos were the thing in the early noughties.
  • I played the Crysis 3 beta and now know there's not a chance in hell I'm going to buy it. I played the Defiance beta and now there's not a chance in hell I'm going to buy it. SO TRUE.
  • I mean, the majority of the game that I've bought, don't have a demo. That's one thing I can say. But another thing I can say is that if a demo is phenomenal, I'll go buy the game that same day. Sniper Elite 2? I had such a blast with that demo that the only reason I turned it off was so I could go to Gamestop and take the full version home with me. This guy assumes that 99 percent of gamers are under the age of 12. "I'm too scared to ask mommy and daddy if they'll buy me a copy of GTA5, so I'll just play the demo for the rest of my life." That's kids, that's not reality. The point of a demo is to make you come back for more. If a demo gives you too much access, then yeah, people are going to say, "Then why would I buy the full game?" Limit it. BUT, there is a black to that white. I'm going to say something that people don't agree with; I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just stating my opinion. I HATED Borderlands. So when Borderlands 2 got announced and everybody got hyped, I was like, "Oh, boy. Here we go again." It comes out, the reviews are stellar, and I say, "Okay. If I can get a demo, I'll see about maybe buying it." No demo. It's insulting when developers assume their game is good enough that it doesn't need a demo. And it annoys me, because it limits my scope. Think of how many games are out for this system, and what percentage of them have demos. Exclude Arcade games, because they all have demos. How many disc games have demos? Probably 30 percent, maybe less. That would mean that a maximum of 70 percent of Xbox games, I'll never know. They could be awesome, could be terrible. But I won't really have a chance to know. Lacking demos also makes me buy slower. Right off the top of my head, Godfather 2, Homefront, and Future Soldier, all day-one buys for me. My ass still hurts from buying those games, and do you really think I'm going to rush back out and buy MORE undemonstrated games after those pieces of shit? Basically, this analyst doesn't know what he's talking about. He assumes that all gamers are either children, or lazy, jobless losers who want to have a nibble at the cake, but would die before they bought it. It's preposterous. My shelf is loaded with games that had demos, and many of them are there BECAUSE of their demos.
  • #60 I agree . well put I would like a demo of borderlands 2 metro last night
  • I would love to try demos but one reason I don't is the fact that they take too much god damn space to download in the first place, especially if you only have a 20gb xbox...
  • Ive learned my lesson from buying a game with a trailer only and no demo, what i do is looking on youtube for more gameplay videos what other people post who already have the game or else i wont buy a game. even if theres a demo and trailer i always wait 4 them youtube gameplay vids (i know im 2 cautious)
  • bollocks is what i say to analysts fuckwits who know fuck all about the market they are evaluating, paid by some corporate asshat, who also knows fuck all stop wasting money on those fools, and start using it to make good games. demo's are a great way for those on lesser budgets to test if they want to buy your game or not....i personally know which games i like, and aside from the occasional spasm (like when i pre-ordered colonial marines, couldn't help myself, it said aliens on it) i only buy those games i know i like also, recently i've given up achievement whoring, so i no longer play kids games, or badly made easy games, i'll only be buying games i actually enjoy, without demo's, i'm not even going to give them a try...hell, it's been nearly a month since i turned my xbox on, had ps3 on the other day to check my + sub wasn't about to run out...but i'm now in the realm of my PC, where most things have a demo, and all games have more than 5 screenshots available (unlike the joke of a store that MS & sony are running on their respective platforms)
  • Areis he related to that dumbass ip advisor you get a game because you like the demo or you like the past game or you like the game designers or you like the gameplay videos its rare if I buy a game with knowing anything about it
  • I think there is some truth to this. I'll use myself as an example, I really wanted to try Metal Gear Rising. I downloaded the demo to try out the gameplay and I was pleased. It was fun, but I satisfied my desire to play it until a price drop.
  • The day i listen to a analyst will be on the same day i meet Hypnotoad.
  • I buy a ridiculous amount of XBLA games after trying the demos.
  • This only makes me wonder what games they used as a Statistic. Because if you look at something comparatively Like COD Black Ops Versus something Like Naruto Storm 2. Even if COD didnt have a Trailer or a Demo it would easily Break the sales of Naruto without any assistance, Due to more fans. This kind of a Analytical question is useless. The reason games with Demos sell significantly less copies is due to the players simply not enjoying the gameplay. They should analyze Games that do NOT have a Demo to the Trade In Rate of these games Versus a Game with a Demo to the Trade In Rate. Because a Game with a Demo like COD Black Ops, Will be traded in FAR less, Than a Poor Game without a Demo Like BodyCount (apologies to anyone who does like bodycount) Overall this whole article and analysis is bull-honky.
  • This is all well known information. This is why the demo is a dying breed.
  • well thats kind of obvious... as all demo's are horrific. which makes the game look bad... are they just idiots in the gaming industry? or do they actually do "research" before launching a game ?
  • I was gonna buy dead space 3 since I bought and loved the first two, played the demo. Rented it.
  • Back when I had a ps1 and ps2, every single game I bought is because I played the demo and loved playing the demo, and until I bought the game, I probably played some of the demos like 100 times... I had a subscription to officvial playstation magazine and it came with demo discs.. and i played all of them.. Now with 360 tho.. not as much.. i know pretty much what i am getting, and i watch more trailers then I used to. but i dont think it would stop me from buying games, unless they just plain suck.. I agree most games now don't need demos, unless they are diff or niche.. I think nowadays i can watch a trailer and immedietly tell you if i will like it or not... but they have to show some gameplay not just explosions and alot of quick cuts and edits in the video.. show some actual gameplay footage, so i know the style of game camera.. fps, 3person, top down, isometric etc..
  • I agree with this completely, I'll play the demo to a game, and it'll end up being bad, and I don't buy the game right away. Most of the time I'll finally pick the game up when it's used @ some mom and pop knock off gamestop for $10
  • $#1T i've play same demo of CoD for the past 6 years?
  • All Call of Duty games sucks. The best game ever in my opinion is Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3
  • I look at it this way, If someone wants the game then they will buy it.
  • It really brings the rumoured block on pre-owned into perspective, doesn't it? If that were to be the case, you'd be buying a game you didn't know if you would like, that you can't return/sell on. Surely the result would be people taking less risks with their cash, and only spending on sure fire so-called "Triple A" titles?
  • So basically the content of the article contradicts the headline? Your opening paragraph is directly contradicted by the following paragraph? Either the figures quoted in your second paragraph are incorrect, or you are resorting to typical sensationalist journalism to make something sound more shocking (and newsworthy) than it is. Can't a story be interesting enough without stooping to this kind of tactic? Just the facts, man. Just the facts.
  • Sales figures i'd like to much of that $500,000 takes into account the number of titles returned after people bought it and decided it sucked regardless of demo or not. Personally I like to play demos, makes me decide better if my hard earned $ is being spent wisely or not
  • Id have ever brought the original Arkham Asylum if it wasnt for the demo. Demo's help you weed out 2nd rate titles. All XBLA titles have demos so to speak so what is the problem?
  • Demo's are always helpful, on the original ps1 I might not have never played some games ever if it wasn't for demo's, it's a tradition that should stay.
  • If a game has a trailer and shows no in-game footage, I stay away from it until I get to play a demo. Usually it sucks tho.
  • @76 So by your logic all Call Of Duty games suck, but the best game ever according to you is Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3!!! SMH
  • Just don't make shit games and there wont be shit demo's.
  • I wonder if the analyst has taken into account that some games just SUCK. Demos make or break a sale for me often times. When I'm looking to try something new, I look for a demo. If it has one, I play it. If the demo impressed me and made me want to play more, I buy the game. Here's the problem though: Video Game Developers are actually a bunch of morons. When you make a demo, you make sure the gameplay of it FEELS SUBSTANTIAL. Give the player opportunity to play around with a good chunk of your game to see if its to their liking. Don't just give us a 10 minute portion of a singleplayer level, that's silly. It makes no sense to half-ass your demo and then expect players to want to buy it. I've passed up Dragon's Dogma because the demo is basically "God of War Light". People are saying the game is fantastic and worth picking up... But the demo doesn't convey that. The demo conveys that it's heavily trodden ground and not worth the initial investment. Also, these figures are likely to be wrong. With 500,000 units as the "maximum" in the study, we're basically concluding that all these games that the analyst looked at weren't going to sell very well anyway. I suggest you take a look at what the triple A games do for their marketing. I also suggest you take a look at how many of those have demos out. A poorly designed demo (which most of them tend to be... it's fairly obvious about three minutes into a demo how half-assed it is) deters customers. A well-designed demo makes people want your product. Oh, and what about games that release a demo on release day or later? This is a silly business practice unless you KNOW your game is going to suck. If you release it BEFORE your game, it has the chance of hyping up the playerbase of it (especially if it's good!). But, if it's a stupid and terrible demo... an early release can deter your customers.
  • @56 - They're either trying to entice people to buy a game that tanked, or just to get more people to buy it. Of course, sometimes they're just idiots too.
  • @79 Actually read the whole article. Or pay closer attention. He clearly states that the highest selling category is the one with JUST a TRAILER (500,000) and no demo. Now, add up the category of no Demo and no Trailer with the just trailer no demo category and you get 600,000 Add up the two categories with demo and you get 450,000. Either read fully or work on your reading comprehension and math skills.
  • Jesse Schell - Putting the Anal in Analyst. In all seriousness though, like many have said, if the Demo sucks then the game probably will (Dragon Age 2), but if the Demo's great, chances are the game is too (Bioshock/Just Cause 2). Of course there are exceptions. RAGE and Brutal Legend had awful Demos, but I loved the games when I played them. Conversely, some games had good Demos but the games themselves split the fanbase and performed under commercial expectations (Resident Evil 6). My point is that you can find patterns and trends that support your belief or theories in all things. It just depends on what "facts" you use and how you choose to display them. Jesse Schell is another ANALyst looking to make money out of his "professional advice". I wouldn't attribute any significance or value to his opinion, as it appears to be yet another example of marketing BS.
  • @88 Not really. The headline, yes, OK, I'll give you that, I reacted too quickly and short have been clearer. But the opening paragraph is blatantly misleading and contradicted by the paragraph which follows. Games with a demo *only* outsold games with neither demo nor trailer by 2:1. What the article really concludes is that a trailer is the best way to promote game sales. Games with a trailer only outsold games with a trailer *and* demo by, again, 2:1. So thanks for your snotty comment, but we'll call it a draw.
  • There are two kinds of lies, the regular kind and statistics. This idiot Jesse Schell is guilty of both. What is up with all of these idiots talking all this BS and not having a single clue what they are talking about. Damn STFU already.
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