What’s a Game Demo Worth, Anyway?

By  |  Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 4:36 pm

fable2combatPeter Molyneux, the ever-mouthy creator of the Fable video game series, is spouting off about video game demos and why they’re worthless.

“I hate demos,” Molyneux told Official Xbox Magazine. “I think demos are the death knell of experiences.” He then explains that most demos either show too much, don’t show enough or confuse the player. His solution? Tease people with the first 45 minutes of a game, then pitch them on the full version.

That’s not a groundbreaking idea, as pretty much every Xbox Live Arcade title lets you download the whole game and play a small portion, then charges you to “unlock” the rest. Some PC game portals, such as Big Fish Games, let you download any game and play for an hour.

But Molyneux is alluding to a bigger issue, that downloadable games are more conducive to demos than boxed retail titles.

Partly, that’s because boxed games are often greater in scope than downloadable games. After 10 minutes of an Xbox Live Arcade title, such as Braid, you can get the gist. But 10 minutes wouldn’t do justice to the massive environments of Fallout 3, which is why the developers of that game said a demo was simply not possible. Demos of downloadable games are also more attractive to publishers, as it’s easier to make an impulse purchase when all you need is a credit card nearby to keep playing.

Molyneux’s Fable II is an anomaly, because it was once a boxed title, but it’s now being chopped up into downloadable episodes. A 45-minute demo gives Fable II the best of both worlds, as players will have already downloaded the full game, and will be able to experience a significant chunk before deciding whether they want the rest. Molyneux can be somewhat arrogant with his public statements (see: rating his own game a 9 out of 10), but he may be onto something here.

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