Demo Versus Trailer — Which Do You Prefer?
Last week we shared some news with you regarding a developer’s belief that releasing a demo reduces sales, something I found particularly telling of the intentions of developers prior to the game ever actually seeing the light of day.
That got me to resurrecting an old question I would ask myself, of whether a demo or a trailer was better for a game.
The actual question is irrelevant since it’s been statistically proven that trailers push sales far more than demos do. However while that might account for sales of a game, it does not account for accountability and factual statement of what the game actually is. If I may explain that a bit better: Dead Island.
I’m okay with a game using trailers to sell. After all, if a game cannot get itself out there and exposed to millions, how will people know what it is? To that extent we get all sorts of teaser trailers and typically a launch trailer just prior to release. But we don’t always get a demo.
Now sure, some games are actually hindered by a demo where the part that is taken out of the game is a bad representation of the game as a whole. Mass Effect 3, for example, used the very linear prologue and a later mission in the game, to show off what it’s capable of, but those levels were neither effective nor convincing of what the final product was all about. Fair play to BioWare, they needed to show off something that wouldn’t give away spoilers, only they did anyway so never mind. Female krogan, et al.
In South Africa we have the other issue of bandwidth related to demos, where we simply cannot afford to download many and so will ignore many demos that are released, favouring the shorter and less bandwidth-intensive trailers. However I have to admit that using NAG CDs of old, I discovered many gems including Freelancer, Dungeon Siege II and Dark Messiah: Might & Magic, where I didn’t need to download the demo for myself and had never actually seen a trailer.
On the side of trailers, while some cinematic trailers do blatantly lie to us to goad us into buying games that are in actuality, not as great as claimed, they are much smaller and so a shorter investment of time for the interested party. Furthermore, a good gameplay trailer is effectively a demo in video form, where you just watch someone else play through the game instead, saving yourself some bandwidth and still giving you the relevant insight. I recently did this for Dead Space 3, where I skipped the demo and opted to rather watch the gameplay trailer for it.
In these respects we can definitely see that each has pros and cons. A bad demo can ruin a good game, the same way a good trailer can lie to us about a bad game. Likewise, however, an honest trailer tells us exactly what we need to know without sacrificing too much on bandwidth, while a good demo allows us the opportunity to really experience a game first-hand, like the Reckoning demo last year which allowed us a limited amount of time to explore the entire first area of the game.
Personally I do prefer gameplay trailers but where those come up short, or where I feel I need more, then I will not hesitate to download a demo for a game.
In terms of making actual purchase choices, however? You know, the relevant reason for preferring one over the other. Trailers definitely do boost sales because they get you hyped up about a game, but do they help you to make meaningful purchase decisions? Not always. The same applies to demos. I guess this one’s up to you. What do you prefer?