Nintendo Switch's Demos Are Miles Ahead Of PlayStation and Xbox
The Nintendo Switch's eShop might be lacking in some areas, but its demo offerings are industry-leading.
With another Nintendo Direct (albeit a miniature one) behind us, Nintendo has released another demo for another highly anticipated game just before its launch, this time for the remake of cult-classic JRPG Live A Live. It's a pattern that the company has established over the years and only improved over time, with many demos now featuring the ability to transfer progress over to the full games once they launch, usually weeks later. It's a free service leveraged powerfully for Nintendo's exclusives--and one that stands in stark contrast to the almost non-existent counterparts offered on Sony and Microsoft's hardware.
While both Microsoft and Sony have recently warmed up again to the idea of game demos in some form, their approaches are far from that of Nintendo. Sony, for example, is kicking off several time-limited game trials for some of its exclusives, with Horizon Forbidden West being one of the first games supported. Like with some of the offered Nintendo games, you'll be able to carry over your Horizon progress should you want to dive into the full game, too.
The catch, however, is that the Horizon game trial isn't free--instead, it's offered as a bonus for subscribers to PlayStation Plus, and only to those currently paying for the service's highest membership tier. It seems misguided to offer trials solely to customers who are already so deeply invested in the ecosystem rather than a broader group of potential new customers. That's especially true considering Sony's decision to not immediately add new exclusives to these PS Plus tiers as soon as they launch.
This is where Microsoft's solution is slightly different. Yes, the company equally doesn't offer demos in the traditional sense and doesn't have a system in place for game trials like Sony, but it gets around this by offering Xbox Game Pass. There's no need to paywall demos, or, arguably, offer them at all, when all Microsoft's exclusive games are on offer in full as part of the subscription. It does still require you to pay monthly for the privilege--which lands Nintendo ahead in terms of value, considering all its demo offerings are free--but it's certainly somewhere between it and Sony.
Microsoft is also working to add demos as another value offering to Xbox Game Pass, which would presumably be for games that fall outside of its exclusive stable. This is reportedly coming to the service within the next year, but particulars on how it will work are still unclear. Microsoft does, however, host several game demos for independent games during special events, such as Summer Game Fest, most recently.
Demos do exist on both Xbox and PlayStation consoles, but for the most part, they're relegated to small offerings that are only made available months after launch. Nintendo, conversely, has a habit of releasing its own demos before or, in the worst case, shortly after a game's launch, which usually does a good job of tying into the marketing cycle for the game in question. It's also just a positive program for consumers, giving you a chance to sample a portion of a game before purchase in a way that informs your decision based on your own experience with it. Not every demo that Nintendo offers allows you to carry over your progress to the full game. The ones that do are predominantly role-playing games or those where the demos are the first few hours of the game, which would be frustrating to have to play through again. Having your progress carry over is a nice extra, ensuring that your time isn't wasted should you decide a game is something you want to continue--be it at launch or much later.
Many of these demos are just limited slices of the beginning of the games they let you sample, which does cut down some of the work it takes to make them available (and, presumably, allows for the aforementioned progress transfer). Some exceptions, like the demos for Metroid Dread and Kirby and the Forgotten Land, are slightly more bespoke portions of their respective experiences, giving you a good taste of all the core mechanics in a shorter playtime. Either approach requires some time and development investment, both of which aren't free, but seem to be a worthwhile expense that Nintendo is willing to invest in.
The scope and scale of these demos that Nintendo offers definitely differ to ones Sony offers (the limited trial for Horizon Forbidden West gives you full access to the game for a limited time, for example) and might not offer an all-encompassing view of a game like the access offered by Microsoft's Game Pass, but they are far more effective because of how they're offered. Without requiring an upfront monetary investment to access demos, Nintendo backs itself, by aiming squarely at potentially new customers entirely, while also giving consumers an authentic way to sample numerous games before launch.
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