Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

3 Key Features of the Game Demo

Game demos are a proven way to sell games, but there's no set formula for crafting a demo. It's a process that should involve the creativity of the game designers and the creativity of marketers. A good demo has to provide enough of the flavor of the game to convince someone to buy the full game, and yet not so much of the game that the potential customer feels that the demo was enough and they don't need to buy the full game. (Sometimes when I watch a movie trailer, I get the feeling I've seen all that I want to of that particular movie, and there's no need to pay to see the whole thing.)

Implicit in all this is that the game has enough entertainment value that it will be worthy of the full price. Sadly, not all games meet that standard, and you should know if your game does or not before you waste time putting together a demo. If you're just cranking out a game that you're hoping to sell before the word gets out that it isn't all that great, avoid doing a demo. (Similarly, movies that the studios fear will be savaged by the critics somehow never seemed to get released in advance to the critics.)

Let's assume that you have a terrific game, and all you need to do is to give players a taste of it and they'll flock to buy it. Crafting a good demo should embody these principles:

  1. Make it easy. The demo should be easy to find, easy to install (if electronic) or run (if non-electronic, as in a board game or a card game or an RPG), and easy to buy the full game (a way to upgrade from the demo inside of the demo, or a web address where you can buy the game, or a local store listing... something).
  2. Make it representative. The demo should embody the key selling features of the game... you did determine what those were, didn't you? (One of the benefits of creating a marketing plan is that it forces you to think about those sorts of things.) Leave in enough of the key elements so that the demo really feels like the full game, not like some random bit that could have come from a number of different games.
  3. Make it fun. You'd think this goes without saying, but sometimes in creating a demo you leave out so much that it's no longer fun. Make sure it is, or else your effort is wasted (or worse, counterproductive).
Game demos usually are created by leaving things out of the full game, so be careful what you drop or shorten. Non-electronic games have other demo issues. You have to make it easy to distribute (perhaps as a free PDF or a free item you give to retailers), and it has to be easy to pick up and use by someone who has never seen the game played before, and yet still come across with the flavor of the game. Not easy... but possible, and certainly worthwhile when you get it right.

Finally, make sure you track the sales that come from the demo by using a unique landing page or other method. This way you can tell if the time and effort you spent on creating and distributing the demo has been worthwhile, as you plan your next demo.

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