Demos have been around since the days of floppy disks. Although, demos were not common on consoles until the ‘Seventh Generation’, which introduced Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii. Since Xbox 360 was first console to market, I’ll use it as an example.
When Xbox 360 launched in November 2005, it expanded on the original Xbox’s ‘arcade’ platform. Arcade was relatively unpopular on original Xbox, but Microsoft had a vision for Arcade on Xbox 360. Microsoft created a marketplace, dedicated an entire section of the Games blade (yes, blades, remember those?), and one other key ingredient, Microsoft made it a requirement that every Xbox Live Arcade game must have a demo. With this simple formula, Xbox Live Arcade blew up on 360.
Part of Arcade’s success is because it was one of the first times quality old games were accessible on a modern console. But there was a fervor among 360’s Arcade platform. All of a sudden every developer wanted to publish a game on Arcade, and gamers were just as excited to have a bunch of incoming games amid their own requests. Throughout the years, Arcade’s design and file size restrictions changed, but one thing remained the same, Arcade games always had a demo.
Fast forward to the launch of PS3 and Wii. Each also has a marketplace for ‘small’ digital games, but one thing they’re lacking are demos. There were many games I was interested in on PS3, but none of them ever had a demo!
Contrarily, I bought many Xbox Live Arcade games. But if it weren’t for demos, I wouldn’t have bought any of the following:
- Rez HD
- Wolf of the Battlefied: Commando 3
- Crystal Quest
- Shadow Complex
- After Burner Climax
- Assault Heroes
- The Maw
- Comic Jumper
- Hydro Thunder
- The Splatters
- Dust: An Elysian Tail
Demos seem great! What happened?
Xbox One’s dashboard no longer makes distinctions for Arcade, Retail, or Indie games. All games are grouped together as games. This new organizational method is good and bad, let’s break it down.
Every game gets equal visibility. This is especially beneficial for Indie games that were often difficult to find on Xbox 360. There were many debates about placement of Indie games on Xbox 360, do they receive their own section or get grouped with all other games. If you’re interested in learning more information about the Indie games debate on Xbox 360, check out this article.
Now that all games are ‘equal’, Microsoft can not possibly require a demo for every game. Not all developers have the time and publishers may not want to spend extra money.
Is there a way Microsoft could classify which games require demos? Well, it becomes a difficult argument to make. What’s to stop a developer from loosely saying, “Oh, we intend for this to be a full retail title at some point”, as a method to skirt around any ‘Arcade’ regulations. By leveling the playing field, Microsoft has also ensured that some games will potentialy get less sales because they lack a demo.
What can we do to get demos for new games?
Gamers are a vocal bunch, let your voice be heard! Tell developers and publishers (via. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email, Phone, whatever) that you want a demo of their ‘Arcade’ game.
Demos are fun ways to see what a game has to offer. A chance to understand the game’s environment, mood, tone, attitude and feeling. Some developers don’t have a huge marketing budget, and without quality marketing, a game can go unnoticed. Although a demo could create waves in an already tumultuous ocean, and all it costs a small developer is some extra time behind the keyboard. In other words, sometimes demos can do more than a quality marketing campaign, actions speak louder than words.
Long live demos!