First impressions count for everything in the eyes of gamers.
Welcome to VideoGamer.com's Monday Morning Rant, our regular feature where one of the team gets to vent their spleen on anything that annoys them about the wonderful world of gaming. No subject, no matter how taboo, will be free from our cutting comment and vicious vitriol. Got that Monday morning feeling? Read on, and brace yourself for a wake-up call.
Gamers love demos. There's nothing better than turning on your console or PC to find a demo for an unreleased game, giving you a chance to try it before handing over your cash. But gamers are an unforgiving bunch and first impressions count for everything. Release a bad demo and it doesn't matter if the final game is significantly better - a high percentage of those demo users aren't going to give the game a second chance.
This last week saw a perfect example of a demo potentially doing more harm than good. Codemasters' Turning Point has been on our radar for some time now. We've seen the game numerous times during its development and each time came away hopeful that the final product would live up to its promise. After seeing hundreds of games at points in their development when problems are all too clear to see it's easy for the video game press to look past these issues in the knowledge that most of these things will be well and truly ironed out come release day. It's not always the case, but games change a lot during the final few months of development. It's a fact.
Present a demo to gamers though and they'll see it for what it is, not for what it could be. It doesn't matter how many on-screen messages are included to point out that the demo is still a work in progress version of the game; for a gamer the demo is what the final game will be like, even if the demo came from a build two months old and nothing like the game in its current state. Most people don't know the ins and outs of software development and they shouldn't have to. Capcom released an incredibly polished demo of Lost Planet over six months before the game hit stores and it did wonders for the game's sales. I fear that Codemasters' demo for Turning Point has done the opposite.
Another recent demo that surely wasn't thought through properly is Touchstone's sampler for Turok. We've also played Turok before and it's shaping up to be a decent FPS, but the demo didn't sell it well at all. The biggest problem was the decision to open the demo inside a dark cave without giving the main character a flashlight. It's the most uninspired section of a shooter I've played in months, yet it was chosen to demonstrate the game to hundreds of thousands of gamers - all using this to decide if the game is for them.
Capcom's Lost Planet demo and the equally impressive demo for Dead Rising did wonders - each showcasing the best elements of the games. More recently EA and Criterion's demo for Burnout Paradise did well, giving gamers a good taste of what the game has to offer - both for the lone player and online. The demo was even enhanced as the release date approached, giving gamers a taste of eight-player online gameplay. Sure, a few people moaned about the changes to the Burnout gameplay, but most people came away suitably impressed by what they played and the kind of experience the final game would offer.
So here is my Monday morning rant: developers, and publishers, please stop releasing demos that don't accurately represent your games. You only get one shot at convincing gamers that your game is the one to buy out of a bunch of releases, so do all you can to give a solid first impression. Saying that the demo isn't representative of the final game simply isn't good enough.