2023 Proved That More Studios Need To Release Demos First

A great year for gaming has been marred with some massive stinkers.

Story Highlights

  • 2023 saw the release of some of the best games the industry has seen, alongside some of the worst.
  • Releasing demos isn’t just beneficial to the players, but also the developers and studios themselves.
  • Studios that cater to their players’ wants and needs will ultimately find success in their releases.

What a year it’s been for gaming. Not only did we get some of the best titles in the history of the industry, but we’ve also seen developments and setbacks that will define the medium for years to come. And it wasn’t just the AAA industry either, even the indie world managed to remind everyone that you shouldn’t count out the little guys.

Not all releases in 2023 managed to meet the expectations of us eager gamers though. From lackluster campaigns to technical issues, a few titles stood out as the most disappointing releases of the year. And if anything, it goes to show why more studios need to let gamers take a closer look at their games before selling them.

The Weakest Links

Despite getting critically acclaimed titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Alan Wake, Spiderman 2, and even the GOTY-winning hit Baldur’s Gate 3, the year also blessed us, for lack of a better word, with some of the biggest letdowns in recent history. And trust me, it’s a lot more than you may think.

We ended up with titles such as Lord of the Rings: Gollum, Kong: Skull Island, Walking Dead: Destinies, The Day Before, Forespoken, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Despite their AAA price tags, even going up to over $100 in some cases, and years of hype and build-up, to say that they failed to deliver would probably be an understatement for many.

We Had Some Pretty Disappointing Launches In 2023
We Had Some Pretty Disappointing Launches In 2023

Gollum, Skull Island, and Destinies are easily top contenders for the Worst GOTY awards. Not only do the games feel like they were made by devs held at gunpoint and had stories that seemed like they were generated by a cheap knockoff of ChatGPT, but the fact that they were marketed as major AAA titles seems like a crime in and of itself.

On the other hand, Modern Warfare 3, Forespoken, and The Day Before were titles that people were actually looking forward to. One was a beloved IP, one was being made by a beloved developer, and the last was being teased as the multiplayer survival horror shooter to end all multiplayer survival horror shooters. Suffice to say, none delivered.

The Try-Before-You-Buy Paradigm

Naturally, after purchasing a game you’d expect to get your money’s worth, right? But if you were one of the many who decided to spend your hard-earned cash on the games listed above and were sorely disappointed, then you can see where I’m going with this. Videogame demos are a tried and tested method in the industry, and more studios need to re-adopt them.

One of the most significant advantages of game demos lies in their ability to empower players. The traditional model of purchasing a game based on trailers, marketing materials, and reviews can be a gamble, often resulting in disappointment for players who discover that the actual gameplay doesn’t align with their expectations.

By offering a snippet of the gaming experience for free, demos enable players to make informed decisions about whether a particular title is worth their investment. This try-before-you-buy method not only instills confidence in consumers but also promotes a healthier gaming ecosystem where players feel more in control of their choices.

Moreover, demos serve as a dynamic tool for players to assess various elements of a game. From evaluating gameplay mechanics and graphics to testing how well the game runs on their hardware, players gain a comprehensive understanding that transcends the glossy trailers and carefully curated marketing campaigns.

Testing It Out For Yourself

Now, in case you’re thinking to yourself, “Don’t they release gameplay trailers nowadays? What’s the point of releasing demos then?” I’ll have to point out the fact that no developer in their right mind will willingly put a glitch or a broken feature in a clip that millions of people will potentially see.

Even when they do release gameplay demos, you always see a line of translucent text saying something like “Gameplay is subject to change” or “Gameplay does not represent the final product”. I’m not trying to imply that studios are lying to their customers, but I wouldn’t be making this argument if this wasn’t a problem that needs addressing.

Ultimately, demos have a very major edge over “gameplay trailers” because you can experience everything for yourself and decide whether you want to invest your time and money into a game, or not, which is why I’ll always prefer them over any form of secondhand examples.

The Developer’s Playground

While it’s true that players can enjoy the freedom of exploration afforded by demos, even devs find themselves in a unique position to harness the benefits of direct player interaction. Demos aren’t merely promotional gimmicks but powerful tools for collecting feedback from the target audience.

The process enables developers to identify and address potential issues before the official release. Bugs, gameplay concerns, and areas for improvement are highlighted, allowing for targeted enhancements that elevate the overall gaming experience. This collaborative approach also fosters a sense of community between devs and their audience.

The gaming industry is inherently dynamic, with technological advancements and player preferences evolving rapidly. In this environment, the ability to adapt and refine games based on real-time feedback becomes a competitive advantage. Studios that embrace the release of demos position themselves at the forefront of innovation.

This not only allows them to create titles that they know their target audiences will enjoy, but it also means long term success and profit for them as well. Who knew giving people what they want is the way to success in such a highly competitive industry, am I right?

Community Engagement And Adjusting Strategies

In the digital age, where social media platforms and online forums have amplified the voices of gamers around the world, community engagement has become a vital aspect of a game’s success. This engagement extends far beyond traditional marketing strategies as demos provide an avenue for developers to directly connect with the community.

As players share their experiences and feedback, a symbiotic relationship develops between developers and the community. Studios gain insights into player preferences, allowing them to tailor their strategies for the official release. Meaning they can benefit not just from generating hype for their releases, but also save money on promotion costs.

The demo phase becomes a dynamic testing ground for different game elements, helping developers adjust marketing strategies based on what resonates most with players. This agility in adapting to player expectations not only ensures a more successful launch but also contributes to the long-term success and reputation of the studio.

Learning From Existing Examples

All of the points I’ve made so far aren’t just things that I’m shooting off into the dark. These are the things that I have seen firsthand happen many times, even in 2023. I’ll use two pretty major titles to exemplify this, namely Lies of P and Robocop: Rogue City. Not only did both of these titles come out this year, but both also released demos beforehand.

For Lies of P, the demo gave players the freedom to try out different playstyles and also experience different mechanics. Players made a note to point out the flaws they experienced, and based on all the feedback, the devs over at Neowiz Games made adjustments to fix them, resulting in one of the best Soulslike releases of the year.

The Lies Of P And Robocop: Rogue City Demos Helped Improve The Main Games
The Lies Of P And Robocop: Rogue City Demos Helped Improve The Main Games

For Robocop though, the issues that players pointed out almost made the game seem unplayable and not worth the $50 price tag. From stiff animations, to broken enemy AI, this little sneak peek spelled disaster for the title. However, all of the issues were fixed before launch, and the game currently sits at a cushy 9/10 on steam with positive reviews.

In both these cases, the changes ended up making the game all that more enjoyable and prevented it from being review-bombed at launch. Think of it like that first Sonic the Hedgehog movie trailer, where the internet came together to ask the studio to reanimate the movie. And guess what? They did, and now it has a third film on the way.

A Bit Of Community Outrage Can Lead To Good Things
A Bit Of Community Outrage Can Lead To Good Things

An Underutilized Tool

In conclusion, 2023 demonstrated that game demos are not a relic of the past but a powerful tool that can easily redefine the gaming landscape. By empowering players, allowing direct communication between devs and their audience, and fostering a spirit of community engagement, demos have emerged as a necessity rather than a luxury.

With the industry the biggest it’s ever been, the quality of the titles released should also match that fact. As we look ahead, it is evident that more studios need to embrace the release of demos to not only meet player expectations but also to thrive in an industry that demands transparency, responsiveness, and a genuine connection with its consumers.

Bottom line, if you respect your customers, they will support you.

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Najam Ul Hassan is a News Reporter on eXputer who enjoys investing hours in his favorite video game titles. When he’s not playing games, he’s practicing Journalism. He began his career on eXputer after combining his limitless love of video games and all things geek with his considerable writing experience. He has been cited numerous times by several noteworthy publications and sites such as Game Rant, Yahoo, PlayStation LifeStyle, VGC, VG247, TheGamer, among others. Experience: 2+ Years || Education: Masters in Mass Media Communication || Written 300+ News Stories.

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