Discussion in 'PC/Console Game Discussion' started by cnahr, Feb 12, 2013.
Jesse Schell at DICE 2013
More details on Eurogamer
Sure, if you want to sell shit, you don't want the customer to taste it beforehand.
Also people who don't have a clue about what statistics mean shouldn't be talking about them. Sure, Halo without a demo is going to sell better than an unknown licence...
Those statistics are pretty generic and easily misinterpreted.
In other news: Games with bald space marines sell 3x as much on average than those without.
Correlation, causation, etc, etc.
Yeah...those are some Sex Pantheresque statistics. 60% of the time, it works every time.
Added better video.
- Therefore games in established franchises with a built-in user base don't need demos to increase sales.
- Therefore demos are disproportionately made for niche games.
- Therefore games with large marketing budgets can rely on impressive trailers that are shown in a variety of venues but lower-budget games have to use demos to get people interested.
- Therefore making both a demo and a trailer strains resources too much and results in a less polished game that sells worse.
- Therefore many potential customers use numerology based on the total size in megabytes of all promotional materials to decide which games to purchase, and those with higher totals (i.e. those with demos) are less likely to pass that test.
So I'd be really interested to see if they trimmed outliers from their data set like Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, Battlefield, and Halo 4. And thus if this is a case of "games that don't have demos sell well" or "games that sell well don't have demos."
It's a case of "I am talking out of my ass."
Looking at the comments in the Eurogamer piece I'm alternately annoyed by the kneejerk "Yep, sounds right. I didn't like Game X because of the demo!" comments and pleased by the more insightful "Wait, maybe it's because established franchises don't need demos and account for the majority of sales" comments. I guess I'm just happy that they aren't ALL the former.
Anecdotally, and apart from the OP statistics, I have never bought a game because of a demo. I have, however, decided not to buy quite a few as a result of a demo, and sometimes it has turned out that the demo was misleading me as to what the finished product would be like.
But I think the argument against demos for larger games is better made from an economy of resources angle. If it's not built-in part of the marketing ecosystem that makes sense for the size/scale of the games (ie XBLA's system), then it's just not something I care about. They seem like tedious, expensive efforts that will potentially create a misleading impression.
It's not something I feel very strongly about, one way or another.
I don't think the basic argument Schell is making is incorrect, at least for major publisher releases that are heavily marketed. Hype sells those better than a demo will. Indies that can't afford that approach need the demo.
I'll cancel out your anecdata, then: I have bought several games based on their demos. I did it just last night in fact.
As have I. TWO ANECDATA -> YOUR MOVE, LK
I think that's probably true. Is that his point, though? I thought his point was a simple demo = worse sales, based on a poor-to-nonexistant understanding of the numbers he's peddling. Which is the real annoying part, of course; whatever your opinion is on what demos do or don't do for a game's sales, it's a gut feeling, just like Schell's is a gut feeling, because the data that he's citing doesn't speak to it at all one way or the other.
I have never played a demo and buy thousands of games.
X blocks the square.
After watching the video of Schell's DICE presentation, he doesn't appear to acknowledge any of these alternative explanations. And he makes some inferential leaps about the "I've played the demo, that's enough for me" scenarios that he doesn't support with data or research. So, yeah, gonna say that those data are interesting and suggest some additional research, but we can't safely conclude anything from them either way.
Also, just tweeted him to ask more about his methods and data.
Never? Wow. Back when my computer sucked I used demos to make sure the game would run a lot. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a game I wasn't really interested in that the demo impressed me enough to make me buy it, but I'd be shocked if it never happened. Since the advent of Steam Sales making games cheap, I almost never download demos anymore. Although betas are pretty much the same thing these days and I do play those.
I both did and did not buy games because of a demo, and I didn't buy plenty games because they had no demo. However, I hardly ever buy any of the games that make up the biggest sellers on consoles, and when I do (e.g. Skyrim) then indeed I don't bother with a demo. So yeah, those statistics would be much more useful if they were differentiated by budget. It's plausible that bad demos for good games or good demos for bad games turn people off, but it's just as plausible that the biggest sellers are safe bets that don't need demos.
Well, informed consumer decisions have always been the bane of the AAA industry so I'm not particularly surprised about these 'findings', which I use in quotes because I have no idea how you could possibly measure that with the exception of *maybe* two games in a franchise, both of which with the same review scores, but only one had a demo. And even then... suspicious.
Should be pretty good. I suspect his method was, "come up with something I believe to be true, find a few numbers, pretend that they back me up."
Maybe, maybe not. Jesse Schell isn't really a dumb guy, he's usually fairly well informed when he's drawing conclusions from data.
All of the methodological problems already cited and more. For example, it's impossible to compare the same game with and without demos, especially in the same market. Games are not fungible.
You could look cross-platform versions (e.g., release demo on 360 and none on PS3). You could release a demo in one region and not another, then compare sales. You could restrict the release of a demo to a random sample of subscribers to services like XBL Gold or PS+ then look at conversion rates versus those who were given just a trailer.
All of those methods, though, still have flaws and/or are vulnerable to alternative explanations for any results you'd get. The last one would probably be your best bet, but it still suffers from sampling bias (those who subscribe to premium services probably differ from those who don't) and good luck convincing the marketing department to support you in any case.
Well you could go further on the last and eliminate the Gold/+ requirement and simply randomly select accounts. Still the account holder would have to download and play the demo so there's still going to be the issue of a self selecting sample. Also, you're not going to get a for profit publisher to agree to this sort of experiment since it would cost them money and potentially hinder the marketing efforts. The results would be interesting though.
Oh I agree that his claim is simplistic and not really all that well supported by what he uses as evidence. I just think that the average game buyer (i.e. not well informed folks like most here) doesn't really care about demos, so of course the impact of one is going to be limited and potentially negative compared to the release day hype you can generate in an industry where reviews are generally embargoed. How many copies of the new Aliens game are going to sell today versus how many would have sold had they released a demo last week that showed just how bad it apparently is? That's an extreme example where not having a demo helps hide the true state of the game, but demos can also hurt sales simply if they show the game isn't what somebody hoped it would be. And there is also the unintended negative potential of a demo making a game look worse then it really is.
It's interesting to note, however, that demos are very rare even in some gaming genres where buyers are well informed, like grognard wargames.
So after having actually watched the presentation the whole demo = worse sales is just a single slide and zero comment on what data he even used to make this determination. It's not the thrust of his presentation and probably isn't even 10% of his presentation but it seems to be what people are walking away with for some reason. While the criticism regarding the comment is warranted the focus the comment is getting probably isn't. Ultimately I don't think this is a fair characterization of Mr. Schell's presentation.
Yeah, the validity of his conclusions aside, this whole thing is a good example of how a gaming press (or any kind of press, really) is willing to seize on one tiny detail and blow it up in the interest of creating page views.
Well my personal experience is that demos are far more likely to talk me out of a game than to talk me into it.
Notable exception: Kerbal Space Program
The demo for KSP is much better than all the games that Jesse Schell has ever worked on combined.
This claim was made by EEDAR back in 2008.
Schell's just picked that up and used it. I don't find the claim unbelievable - you can't control a player's experience during a demo, but you can during a trailer.
In most genres, shareware & demos have sold me on many, many times more games over the last couple decades than they've put me off of. Many more. The huge exception to this rule is in the MMO genre, where demos & trial periods have told me everything I need to know about the sucktitude of a seemingly higher percentage of games than other genres, allowing me to withhold my money accordingly.
I guess I'm some sort of outlier, but so far it seems to me demos work on me for good games, and don't work on me at all for shitty games.
The only reason I'm not likely to bitch about this, is that making a demo is a pain =)
It's interesting how different industries approach the idea of demos.
Most mediums use trailers & teasers of some kind, which I'd argue are distinct from demos because of their extreme briefness and that they are not a continuous segment of the final product (more an edited remix).
Game demos are typically at least 30 minutes and can be replayed. That's a fair slice of the final product, especially one you're only going to invest 10 hours into. If you let me play an hour of a game and don't manage to invest me in the story I'll probably not want to pay full price after doing so.
Music industry releases demos in various formats, like Youtube, radio, Spotify/rdio, etc etc... You typically get easy access to the single for free but that's it. A lot of people are probably happy to listen to the single a few times and move on, the industry hopes the single will hook you onto the band so you want more and then buy the album.
Books sometimes get extracts published to build hype, the extracts are often (a couple of pages tops, perhaps 1% of the full product). This is a lot smaller than game/music demos, at this size I'm not sure they even qualify as more than a specialised form of "trailer".
Film of course has no demos, or at least none that I can think of. But since there's a direct equivalence in the medium of trailers to the medium of film, you could argue trailers are much more informative for film than they are for games. A film trailer is therefore more equivalent to a music single than game trailer.
...I don't know where I am going with this but thought it would be interesting to compare demos across the big mass media mediums.
I don't know if Amazon requires Kindle titles to have extracts, but every single one I've looked at has had one, and they've been a decent chunk of the full book (or novella, or whatever).
I remember fondly back when Amazon book extract actually contain the whole book, all you had to do was search for page # and you can read the entire book...
A big difference to remember, is that with almost any other media, the amount of effort it takes to create a 'demo' is significantly smaller than that of a game. To make a game demo there are loads of hurdles to go through, certifications, custom menu flow, special rules, distribution, etc...
A chapter from a book, a song from an album can be cleanly sliced in a single pass. A trailer for a movie would take some editing, but is still a much smaller task.
People are consuming games very differently than they used to, we've got Let's Play the forum, Let's Play the youtube, Let's Play the review site, Let's Play the live streaming service, Let's Play the Flamethrower. A demo is way more work for me to find, download, install, and then actually play than picking a video of an average jill/joe playing the game so I can see if it's at all something I'd want to play. Plus I can do all of that while waiting for a build at work.
Last numbers I heard was twitch.tv alone is serving 3 billion minutes to 16 million viewers a month, 40% of which are watching games they don't play or own. I could be an old washed up gamer, but I personally spend more time watching people play games on the internet than I play myself. Especially old games where I can just skip ahead when the LPer hits a spot of grinding.
I don't think I have ever needed a demo to sell me on a game, usually I want it and/or I read reviews and listen to word of mouth about the game.
However, playing the Just Cause 2 demo sold me on the game for sure, although again the overwhelming praise for the game would have done it anyway.
Huh. That's a pretty good point. I rarely play demos, but I watch most of the Quick Looks that Giant Bomb posts, even for games I know I have no interest in. And sometimes they sell me on a game (e.g., QUBE, Far Cry 3, Antechamber). I'd rather watch someone play and listen to them comment than I would play the game --it's easier, I can do it from anywhere I can access the Internet, I don't have to download or install anything.
For hyped AAA titles it only makes sense to avoid a demo. You want fence-sitters to get caught up in the hypestorm via trailers, commercials, and forums/social media pressure. You absolutely don't want to provide a way for those on the fence to sample in advance, because then they can make up their minds for themselves without spending $60 to do it.
I mean, this is pretty much common sense.
I get far more value out of the XBLA game demos than an AAA demo. I wouldn't have ever bought The Walking Dead or Fez without trying them first.
Lately I feel that AAA demos do more harm than good. For example, I never cared for the JC2 demo and I ended up getting that on two platforms.
As was already mentioned, it would be interesting to see the analysis for new IPs v. existing IPs/sequels. For instance, I purchased 'Splosion Man and Toy Soldiers (both XBLA) based on the demos plus some word of mouth but bought the sequels for both sight unseen on the strength of the previous title.
Separate names with a comma.