The purpose of a demo is allow a consumer to play a game to determine whether they would like to stump up the price to purchase the product. It is also sometimes referred to as try-before-you-buy. In my mind a demo is, by far, the best way to advertise your product and the most likely element of the marketing campaign to convert a browser into a buyer.
Xbox 360 has outstanding online content offering downloadable demos for every Live Arcade game and many of the premium disc-based games.
Issue #74 of the US Official Xbox Magazine (OXM) announced a digital edition of their editorial and disc content. It will cost 200 Microsoft Points or about $2.50 (is real money not good enough for Microsoft or something?). An explanatory post by Dan OXM can be found online on this Xbox forum thread.
The most interesting thing is the comment that the downloadable content
will/can contain exclusive demos.
This means that it may be possible that you are interested in buying a game but in order to play the demo you will have to pay $2.50. Now it has to be pointed out that exclusive demos have also appeared on the disc of OXM meaning you had to pay the price of the magazine in order to play them. Therefore, this idea of buy-before-you-buy is not new.
What possible benefit can be gained, however, from dissuading your potential customers from playing the demo of your game? With a $60 price tag on Xbox 360 disc-based games, you really do want to be sure you are going to like the game, to be able to get along with its control scheme and to be sure that the game’s difficulty is within your ability. The only way to resolve these questions is to play a demo.
Surely, a person who is denied access to the demo is less likely to buy the game at full price. Surely, a person who is charged $2.50 to play the demo is going to have a lower opinion of the company producing the game. Why would a company deliberately restrict the number of people exposed to their product, deliberately undermine their own reputation and deliberately make potential consumers feel like they are simply wallets and not people? Surely, this is insanity.
With real money being spent on largely worthless, frequently transient advertising campaigns usually targeted at people who were going to buy the game anyway, why are companies even considering taking their single most potent and potentially indefinitely-lasting selling tool, the playable demo, and restricting its availability and, therefore, ability to turn interested parties into gaming parties?
That brings up the thought that Public Relations departments in the videogame industry tend to be generally awful but that and Jade Raymond, the lovely exception that proves the rule, are a topic for another day and a great excuse for a picture of a pretty lady.