Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

The longer demo didn’t help…

When I asked why people pirated games I got a lot of people saying something along these lines:

“Demos suck! They are such a small part of the game. I HAVE to pirate the game to see if the full version is any good, rather than just the bit they showed me in the ‘demo'”

But after a month of trying a very long (60 turns) demo for Kudos 2 I have concluded that this just isn’t true because:

1) The pirates still pirate the game anyway, and

2) The long demo seems to be contributing to a lower conversion rate, ie: people are trying the demo and not buying the game as much s they have with my other games.

Now I know that it is very tricky to work out whether this is because the demo gives too much game away, or whether its a problem with the quality of the game, but given some very good reviews, and some very positive forum and email responses from buyers, I think generally the game quality is pretty good (certainly it’s way higher than the first game). I am guessing that the demo basically gives away several hours of entertainment for free, and it’s just too darned long. So I halved the length of it and re-uploaded a new demo today to see if that improves things.

A GOOD demo (from a business POV) is one where as it kicks in, the player thinks “What? OMG I was getting so into this game”. In a sense, the demo is the first course of a meal, the opening scene of a movie. Give away too much, and you lose sales. Most people will take a free starter rather than pay for a whole meal, and I’m sure a lot of people like me get bored towards the end of todays’ long and tedious movies anyway :D

So hopefully it will work and I might get some more sales…

In unrelated news, check this out. Seems some people are really getting into modding Kudos 2 :D

13 thoughts on The longer demo didn’t help…

  1. I don’t know, I’ve often insisted that there are two types of demos; one’s the cocktease, where you have that whole experience of yanking the rug out from under the player just as they’re getting into it. The other is where you genuinely get the player involved in and in love with the game, and they’ll not only buy it but tell their friends to buy it. Obviously the 2nd is preferable, but if your game isn’t that kind of “I gotta tell you about this, man!” experience, you might just be better off going with the first.

    I did try the Kudos2 demo, and while it wasn’t for me, I did play though ’til the end, and I can’t recall any terribly remarkable experiences. Nothing really exciting happened, and I was left thinking “…ya know, the most notable experience there was that all my friends hated me ’cause I was too busy learning kung fu to go waste money on them…” But, like I said, sim games have never been my thing anyway.

    Ultimately the idea of the demo, i think, is to make people fall in love with the game. If you can do that in 5 minutes by showing them a cool experience 3/4 of the way through the game with a premade char, awesome. If you have to custom craft an experience, it’s a little crafty, but still awesome. Whatever you do, just engage the player’s attention and make sure it’s a notable experience. I still stand by my original position that the cocktease demo is only 50% effective ’cause you’d be pissing off half of the people playing it, rather than engaging 100%.

    Example of a recent demo that did it right, Mirror’s Edge demo via XBLA. Taught you how to play, immediately had you run through a short level where you get your blood pumping and show off the really cool aspects of the game, and stop at the end of the level (not mid-way through!).

    So, I guess to borrow your terms, a GOOD demo from a business POV is the teaser. A GREAT demo is one where you sell the player on the gameplay (doesn’t have to be 100% accurate), AND convince them to tell their friends.

    Kinda the difference between
    “Hey, wasn’t that fun? Glad you liked it, you should buy the rest.”
    “HA HA! You were really getting into that, huh? Too bad, buy the rest.”

    Just a few thoughts.

  2. Yeah, same experience here.. demo stopped right in the middle-age crisis.. too depressing :)
    Maybe unlocking more options, while making it shorter, would help?

    And playing with person’s perception using contrast: making part of the demo easy to master, and the rest very hard..
    like “yeah, you can get classes in communication and make friends quickly, but if you want to get that girl in your bed..”

    fu..playing with demo-players this way: :)

  3. People who are able to afford games and are still pirating are unlikely to change their ways. So I doubt decreasing the demo length will have much effect on sales (although I may be proven wrong – will be interesting to see what the result is!).

    As you mentioned previously, Cliff, the best way I believe to get more people playing Kudos 2 is getting big game review sites/publications to review the game (and hopefully positive reviews at that) – however I guess that isn’t too easy when competing for webspace/page real estate with bigger more well funded games.

    Alternatively, maybe Kudos 2 even though it has a market, is only a niche market and consequently to succeed either a totally different genre of game needs to be made or modifications need to be made on existing winners (e.g. Democracy)

  4. You could give them a demo of 99% of the game, and the pirates would still pirate off that 1%. These pirates aren’t a lost sale; they’re hopeless. Don’t really need to cater to these guys, as they’ll simply find another excuse. They’re like opposite-EA. :P

    Others pirate because of frustration that they feel cheated out of buying something that they have no control over. Eg: install limits, online activation, etc. These are the ones that are potential buyers, just pushed into piracy.

    In terms of demos, it’s very difficult to draw the line. I played the demo of Kudos 1, and got sucked in. When Kudos 2 got out, I immediately bought it. Unlike James above, I’m a sucker for good sim management games (simcity, civ, etc..). Kudos 2 aren’t exactly for trigger-action, FPS fans after all.

    Personally, the demo for Kudos 1 was fine for me. Didn’t try Kudos 2 demo though. Very happy that Kudos 2 came with no DRM! :)

    Now, to get a DRM-less copy of Sacred Gold on….

  5. I wonder if a slower paced game like Kudos 2 would benefit from a more in-your-face demo? A version that throws some of the bigger events at you more quickly. Sort of a compressed version of the full game.

    Crackdown on 360 did something like this where levelling up was accellerated compared to the full game.

  6. Sounds like a good time to do some testing! :)

    You can try giving half the visitors a demo with more limited turns and see what the results are. I personally think 60 turns might be too much if Kudos 2 (haven’t tried it yet) is the same as the previous one gameplay wise

  7. I’m a bit late to the party, but just read the blurb in PC Gamer about your efforts and thought I’d drop by and issue my two-cents with regards to pirating.

    Frankly, I’m a partial pirate. I’m an honest man, and an all-out consumer to say the very least. I’m not cheap, but I am frugal and I like to get at least what I’m paying for. So here’s how it happened with me. For years I found myself being tricked by the industry into buying shit games in pretty packages, often on account of their “demo”. I became so fed up with paying good money for garbage that I finally cracked. the same holds true with Music. Recall if you will just how many CD’s or Tapes or even Records you bought pre-internet (as we know it now) that had a lone radio hit and were entirely shit beyond said hit. You feel scammed.

    I’ve gotten this feeling countless times from playing that carefully chosen demo only to find out that the game as a whole is a utter waste of time and money. I turned to pirating as my work-around, and, not unlike others I’d imagine do the honorable thing of buying games after the fact (or frequently once convinced of a games merit) if I feel it’s well deserved.

    I haven’t played any of your games, but I could name 20 games in the last couple of years that I picked up off the net, played, loved and purchased knowing that the developers, producers and team were getting what they deserved. Others, well let’s just say if I found a game worth finishing, I bought it. If I loaded it, played a few hours and promptly removed it from my system from either disdain or general disinterest in the product than my method had once again saved me from wasting $40, $50, hell even $60 dollars for some of these shitpiles.

    For me it isn’t about ripping anybody off, it’s about not being ripped off.

  8. Oh and by the way, I do see the flaw in my logic morally. I mean, I wouldn’t march into the local grocery, eat a bag of crisps as you’d call them and decide whether or not to pay for them based on whether or not I liked them. Somehow though, I’ve never felt as conned by any industry as I have by mass media.

    I’ll continue to do what I do, for what I perceive as my protection. It’ll be an interesting day when they kick down my door for downloading a bunch of games only to find the retail packages neatly placed on my shelves and no trace of the others anywhere on any of my computers ;-)

  9. I tried the demo and didn’t finish it before I decided to buy the game. Thirty turns might have been enough for me. I don’t think the longer demo hurt, however. I was surprised by how long the demo went on and it made me think you must have a lot of confidence in your game’s quality.

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