Game demos can hurt sales, suggests research

Information from analytic firm EEDAR suggests that releasing a game without a demo can almost double sales.

New data from games industry research and consultancy firm EEDAR suggests that releasing demos can actually have a detrimental effect on game sales.

Image credit: Oscar Clark

Game developer Jesse Schell presented the data during a keynote speech at the Gamelab conference in Barcelona (via CVG).

Schell's slide showed that the average Xbox 360 game sells 525,000 units after six months when released with a trailer but no demo. On the contrary, a game with both a demo and a trailer will only sell about 250,000 units.

An average Xbox 360 game released without a trailer nor a demo sold fewer than 100,000 copies in the same time period, however.

One potential problem with interpreting the EEDAR data in this way, however, is that it is difficult to determine whether there is a correlation between some of the industry's best-selling titles--such as Call of Duty, BioShock Infinite, or Tomb Raider--generally opting not to release a demo at launch.

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Discussion

709 comments
nl2lood_69
nl2lood_69

ho really how did i wanted to buy ssx and syndicate and killzone 3

medicosshashi
medicosshashi

pros and cons from a consumer point of view - pros well if we like the game we buy it no questions asked , cons - developers have to understand if people dont buy their games ,they should rethink their strategy , y? because satisfaction for a game and their value is decided by the consumer .... i think demos are a good thing, makes good progress for the developer and the consumer

Rayrota
Rayrota

Yeah, if the demo is bad. A good demo boosts sales. It works both ways.

zpluffy
zpluffy

How many did Minecraft sold?

PlasmaBeam44
PlasmaBeam44

Yeah, I'd like to see the games they used in this study. I'm sure if GTAV or Assassin's Creed IV, or Call of Duty had demos it wouldn't hurt their sales in the slightest.

Psmitty456
Psmitty456

If your game is crap and you let people play it before buying it than yes, it won't sell as good. Most AAA games don't need to put out a demo because they know you'll buy anyway and if they do, I'm sure it wouldn't hurt their sales. This research study is crap if you ask me.

DarthLod
DarthLod

Some of the crap I read these people say just makes no sense half of the time.

soulfulDAGGER
soulfulDAGGER

Every video game should have a demo available. Taking that a step further, one should be able to use accumulated achievement points for them. If a user uses some of the attained achievement points to "purchase" a demo, the final price of the game should then be available at a reduced cost instead of the end user having to wait for a sale. 

cheamo
cheamo

Yes, obviously a bad to mediocre game will have worse sales if you let people try it first. A good game, however seems like it can only benefit. I have definitely bought games after playing a demo before.

XxXDarkness0XxX
XxXDarkness0XxX

sorry that we would rather try the game out first before spending 60 bucks on a piece of shit

richioso
richioso

I never would have bought "I am Alive" without the demo.

uglypinkmoose
uglypinkmoose

ya if people play a crappy demo they wont chance buying the game..... all this means is people are suckered into buying games they think will be good but have no way of testing it... I'm sure big games like Bioshock wouldn't have less sales because of a demo.... only games like Alien: Colonial Marines n stuff 

arcangelgold
arcangelgold

Yeah because as soon as we see how crappy they are or that we don't like them we don't want them anymore. On the other hand if you don't release a demo I probably won't buy it anyways because I'm not confident on spending $60+ on games I might hate.

liandrikonflict
liandrikonflict

This "story" is a few years old...They did this same data crunch a few years ago with the same results...for some reason I think their statistics are BS.


Bad Demo = bad game(cant trust the game makers) = no sale...I have seen my fair share of broken demos with day one demo patch releases(?)

Also if a developer is too lazy to even include at least a sample video of their game on the PSN or Xbox live then that developer can kiss my ass...I am not surfing the net like an animal to look for your game or download your 3 Gig Demo if you even got one.

McNeelyJ39
McNeelyJ39

this has nothing to do with correlation.  pretty bad way to read data as they fail to source outliers on both ends.

kvan33
kvan33

Flawed analysis and conclusion.   I read it this way:   If a publisher knows they have a great game, and there is plenty of buzz around it.  Then they don't release a demo.   If your game has little buzz around it, and you think you can put together a few minutes of impressive gameplay to sell it, then you make a demo.

francisismyhero
francisismyhero

This graph is so statistically misleading.  You can't compare cumulative sales, only averages.  If you want to compare the trend line over time, then you need time by percent sold over the year.  Then you'd be able to compare this properly.  

mtnjak
mtnjak

Uh...no.  I could go count the number of demo downloads on my PSN account and I can tell you that 90% of those demos I wouldn't have bought or ever considered buying anyways.  I usually go with reviews when trying to determine if I want to buy a game or not.  


toyo75
toyo75

One doesn't buy a car without test driving it first. A demo is a great way to determine whether a game is worth your dollar.

orthodox1976
orthodox1976

YUP! Demos have saved me tons o' cash. LOL

BAD GAMES hurt sales, not demos. :)

blackothh
blackothh

let me translate this. When you release a demo it allows the customer to discover if they are potentially buying a piece of crap. Of course it would hurt sales, but thats not a fault of the customer, its a fault of a bad game! I guarantee if Sim City had a demo, it would have never sold more then 10 copies.

demonkingx5
demonkingx5

Or the game demo is great & we buy the game go ahead & get greedy & watch your game fail & i hope it does for not having any faith in your game or in the free market.

VenomousOne
VenomousOne

Here's my survey, sample size: Me. 

The demo of Dragon's Age 2 convinced me to cancel my pre-order, so...Yep! True!

Thank god for demos.

bahamut1283
bahamut1283

Somehow, with the quality of games that have been coming out recently the title of this article seems to be a rhetorical statement...

megakick
megakick

Sure if the game demo is bad the game might be bad, no sale...

Rennik_Repotsir
Rennik_Repotsir

275,000 suckers with buyers remorse.

All kidding aside, there are other factors involved outside of releasing a demo. What do the samples consist of? Are your samples limited to the four games? If not, are you comparing the extreme maximums with the extreme minimums?

Honestly Tomb Raider would have been a new game purchase for me; but with no demo because it would "spoil the story" made me think that I was right to assume it was turned into an interactive corridor movie. A used game purchase later, I found that I kind of liked the game. Go figure...

SpazldNinjaDude
SpazldNinjaDude

Game demos only hurt sales if the game is trash....make a good demo, and then a good game, and it will increase sales.

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

Make a decent enough game and this won't happen.

Problem solved.

Divedude
Divedude

yea, this just means people bought the game found out it sucks and got stuck with it, where the Demo was played and I saved money.   Devs never ever produced game trailers that lied or buffed a game that just was crap. Never.

Warful
Warful

This is a fucking no-brainer.
But honestly, a demo can ALSO increase sales as much as decrease them.
It sounds like they haven't had many criterias for this research.

I cannot be the only one to ever have been convinced of getting a game thanks to a demo.

Tixylixx
Tixylixx

Why I use torrents to try the game first.

WeWerePirates
WeWerePirates

Ugh, he gave exactly the same talk months ago and with exactly the same holes. He failed to control his results. Anecdotally Halo Reach had a beta (not exactly a demo but for the purposes of his argument functionally identical) Halo 4 didn't. Current projections put Reaches life time sales ahead.

The correlation of sales to demo is more an indication of how it is decided whether a game needs a demo or not. Games which are more or less guaranteed to sell well won't really benefit from having a demo. It's more the mid tier that get demos and these games are never going to sell as well any way.

Brakkyn
Brakkyn

I have a poster hanging on my wall of Garfield saying "Well, DUH!" and it's an appropriate comment for the above topic.

Of COURSE it can hurt sales--people can see what crap you're putting out and say "eff that shizz".  But, of course, buying it without playing a demo first means you're stuck with whatever you buy, even if it sucks.

Then it eventually settles into the realm of used game sales and piracy and DRM and oh geez lets pretend I didn't mention any of those.

Imaginaari84
Imaginaari84

I have bought several games after trying demo and would have not bought them otherwise.

Elann2008
Elann2008

Maybe because demos are rushed and half-assed, terrible representation of game build and quality.  Put out an excellent game demo and maybe... JUST MAYBE, people will be awed and they will buy it?  I don't know.. *shrugs*


Szeiden
Szeiden

That's only if your game is bad. Then of course you don't want people trying it first. Personally I never buy a game without playing a demo. Though usually the demo I play is an "extended demo" if you get my drift. That's the only way to see if you really like the game and it's worth the purchase.

dark_sith_
dark_sith_

Of course it can...if you aim to release crappy, bug-ridden pox of game. On the other hand, if your goal is to release polished, well made title, demo can bring you many new customers.

Hard_Target
Hard_Target

Sales will decline if we play the demo and it turns out to be a piece of shit. (Which is usually the case.)

Pro Tip: MAKE BETTER GAMES!

Pupchu
Pupchu

@arcangelgold Yeah, purchasing video games nowadays is expensive. No demo, and I may not buy the thing...

Psmitty456
Psmitty456

@kvan33 Yup, and then people see that the game sucks and don't buy it. 

blackothh
blackothh

The difference now is, that if i want to buy a game, i will watch a youtube letsplay enough to allow me to decide if the game is worth my investment. Dont even need a demo for it.


and to look at it on the other side of the coin, there are MANY games i would have never bought if there were not a demo or letsplay. so take your data and shove it.

orthodox1976
orthodox1976

@VenomousOne Same here. The DA2 demo was shite. Staying away from the actual game was inevitable.

liandrikonflict
liandrikonflict

@SpazldNinjaDude The game might not be trash...just not some peoples cup of tea...Some might like a tower defense game...I dont usually like those kinds of games...but I will try the Demo just in case...and I might not like it but I wouldnt say its trash.

Psmitty456
Psmitty456

@Warful I demo all Xbox arcade games before purchasing, you're not alone.

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

@WeWerePirates Not surprising.  The gaming industry is rife with data and has no idea what to do with it.

Such things allow schleps like Pachter to have careers.

corteztheg
corteztheg

@Hard_Target but how do you explain duke nukem forever sales at all. the demo came out, it was a piece of turd and yet the final game was still a financial success.