There is something very tricky about selling games through demos. The problem is, the complexity of interaction required for the full experience.
Take a fairly complex strategy game, like Gratuitous Space Battles. To really appreciate what the game offers, you need to experience the visual excitement of a big battle, preferably two different ones to show the variety of ships, fleets, backdrops and visual effects. You need to experience the way the honor system works, and the shop section where you unlock new modules. You need to see the design screen, and put ships together, try out the deployment screen with the different ships orders, and you need to see the variety of missions to choose from. Plus you need a brief bit of challenge play to see the online integration, and if we are talking all the DLC, you need a run through of campaign maps, campaign repairs etc…
To explain how to do all of this in the game takes AGES, and you only really learn it by doing it. Lets call the time taken to experience brief elements of all of this time ‘T’.
Now lets take a movie, such as…oh I dunno… Enemy At The Gates. This film has a bit of character background (Vassili as a child), it has high drama (the crossing of the river) it has the characters of Khrushchev, Tania, the rivalry with Danilov over Tania, the death of Koulikov, the betrayal of Sacha…etc blah blah.
The difference is, that we don’t need to ‘learn’ how to experience any of that. A 3 second clip of stuka divebombers… CHECK, a 3 second love scene clip CHECK… and we can jump from one to the other no problem. This means that the time taken to experience brief elements of all this is T2. I think T2 is maybe T/10
Where it all gores wrong, is generally peoples attention span is A, and T > A > T2.
What a geeky way of saying it’s easier to sell a movie than a game :D But what I’m getting at is that the very NATURE of games (interaction) means that it’s much harder to provide an effective demo. (although to be fair, books have the same problem)
And this is what I’m worried about with my next game (GTB). It’s actually got a ‘sort-of-backstory’, and to explain the mood and the style of the game will take more than 30 seconds. Gratuitous Space Battles was pretty much summed up in it’s title, and this one won’t be. So I muse nervously on how to hold peoples attention while I explain the background to the game.
The mechanics of the game are pretty simple by comparison. I’m just taking an existing genre, flipping it, scaling it up, and setting it against an original backstory.
Plus lots of stuff blows up and it should look nice, in a GSB kinda way :D