Friday, 9 March 2012


What ever happened to demos?

I miss them. I want them to come back. Very few major releases get demos anymore. To the gamer-on-a-budget (that's most of us, considering the economic situation), demos serve two important purposes.

The first is a quality check. Is this game worth my money? A demo is a good check to see if you'll enjoy a game, as it usually features the relevant mechanics and aspects of play that are the game's selling points. The most important thing here is that you often can't return a game you don't like. Some stores will only accept returns if the original packaging is intact. Some will accept opened games, but only as an exchange — you can't get your money back. And for fans of digital download services, there's simply no such thing as a return or exchange. I don't want to buy a Steam game, realize I don't like it, and have simply wasted that $50. Video games cost a lot of money and you don't want to lose that money on something you discover you hate.

The second purpose is PC-specific, but even more important: with a demo, you can check how well a game will run on your hardware. PC gamers with up-to-date, top-of-the-line rigs are a minority. According to the October 2011 Steam Hardware Survey, only 5.6% of users have a DirectX 11 GPU, and 50% of users still have dual-core processors. Minimum and recommended system requirements don't offer much help — if you're between the minimum and recommended specs, all you know is that the game should probably run a reasonable framerate at somewhere between minimum and maximum settings. A demo lets you know where that point is.

Many gamers feel that graphics shouldn't matter, but they should realize that that's personal opinion. Other gamers don't want to have to choose between having a game that runs well and having a game that looks nice. If you know how good the game looks at maximum settings, it can be a lot tougher to tolerate the minimum ones. A demo lets you check if you should buy the game now, or wait until you can afford better hardware.

I understand that it takes more time, effort, and money to make a demo. But maybe there's a payoff. I wonder: do demos have any effect on game piracy? More specifically, would more demos mean less piracy? Some people pirate as a try-before-you-buy. They want to see if a game is worth buying before they actually spend the money. Well, isn't that the point of demos?

I want to know what you think. Do you miss demos? Do you think demos can reduce piracy?

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