Written by Debbie Lloyd
I come from the era of video gamers who received demo discs with their monthly magazines. These discs always contained something new and exciting, and occasionally a little gem you perhaps had never heard of. There was a certain element of excitement as you knew something new was coming in the next issue of PlayStation magazine, and you were just itching to get your hands on the free discs contained within.
I still have many of my PS1 demo discs stored away somewhere. Why? Because these demos were so amazing, that I would play them for hours on end until I could afford to buy the full game. I remember playing the demos for Command & Conquer, Spider and some brightly coloured trippy game with a bouncing rabbit in it. These were a small piece of gaming glory that would leave you salivating for more. Playing a demo was like buying a small piece of cake, taking a bite and then running back to the buy the rest of it to experience its full flavor.
Unfortunately, this golden age appears to be coming to an end. The last few times I have picked up a gaming magazine I have been left disappointed. Sure, it’s had a disc and a little cheat book with it, but the contents of the disc really are nothing special. Within this thin circular container are a few trailers, perhaps some gamer avatars, oh and a demo for a game that’s been out for months. I feel both sad and robbed of my cash at this point. The excitement of the latest demo disc is gone, and replaced with the sloppy seconds of a game that apparently needs more promotion. It’s like the demo disc has turned into a cutting room floor compilation, housing whatever content could be put together at the last minute.
It’s not just the magazines that are failing to provide though. Even the Xbox Live Marketplace has considerably less frequent demo releases than it did before. There has also been a trend that has seen demos of games being released after the completed game has gone to store shelves. This feels like a very sneaky way for developers to boost sales and pique interest after release date, while frustrating those that bought the game blindly when it first came out.
It seems that only the most profitable games get a demo, while smaller games are left behind. Is no one making these little playable previews anymore? Do we really have to bury the demo and instead start a relationship with XBLA trials and just hope that each new release is going be mind-blowing? I for one am sick of paying £40 for a game I never got to play a preview of.
Duke Nukem and Deadly Premonition are just two examples that really could have done with allowing people to dip their toes into each world, and spare gamers a bit of cash. There are more than 300 downloadable demos available on the Xbox Marketplace, but this doesn’t really seem to be enough. Perhaps the world of gaming is too oversaturated with releases that creating a demo for every game would be nigh on impossible, but some form of attempt from the industry would be nice. Every film gets a trailer before it is released, so why is it that games don’t get demos anymore?
It feels like we have to rely on the opinions of website magazine previews in order to build our own judgment about new games. Gone are the days when we could do this for ourselves as a consumer.