Over at rockpapershotgun, Alec Meer has a post up about game demos, and how they probably don’t help much in the sales department.

His point is that most demos don’t give a really good picture of the game. Despite their often-huge size, playing time tends to be short, and content barely gets past the “tutorial” phase.

Alec gives an example from his own experience with the game Timeshift. He liked it; it wasn’t one of the “greats”, but it was fun. He also hadn’t played the demo.

So when he heard a lot of complaints, he finally took a look, and was appalled at how bad the demo was. It’s not hard to imagine people trying the demo and deciding the full game was a loser.

Of course, I don’t download many demos these days. Most of the games out there don’t interest me, and even if they did, their size precludes getting them on dial-up (no comments please; I’ve heard them all by now ;).

Naturally, there are exceptions. Spiderweb, for instance, lets you play a fair amount before you must pay to get the rest. There’s no question you have a good idea of the whole game by the time you’re done with the demo portion.

Alec is not against demos, of course. What he wants are good ones, that give a fair demonstration of the game. This does bring to mind the question as to whether a good demo helps sell a game.

After all, by the time a product is ready to ship, there is an incredible amount of info about it on the ‘net already. Yet, that info is mainly a combination of text write-ups, screenshots, and trailers. And we are all too aware of how much hype is in the mix.

None of that, however, can tell you how the game will look to you, how it will run on your system, and whether there are any problems – such as awkward mechanics and controls – that haven’t been mentioned yet.

So yeah, I think a good demo can help to push the sales. And it would be worthwhile getting if your system happens to be on the edge of those “minimum specs”. Why wait to learn it won’t run until after you’ve spent the money?

Anyway, read the article and see what you think.

Idle Thoughts: Demos on rockpapershotgun