Do We Need To Rethink Game Demos?
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is doing something a little bit different than most fighting games do, in terms of demos. Usually you get to play the fighting game with a severely limited roster, one or two characters at most. You’ll also get one stage and the only real mode you get to play is versus mode. Not a whole lot to go on.

But, in Japan, the Persona 4 Arena Ultimax demo is, instead, going to give you access to the whole game. Yep, that’s right, the whole game all together. Wanna play training? Go for it. Interested in story mode? Sure. It’s unclear whether or not online modes will work but everything else will be there.

The catch? You only get to play 20 minutes before the demo shuts down. 

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Some fans have said that this isn’t enough time to really get to know a fighting game. Depending on match time, you are really only seeing about 5-6 matches, considering character selection and button check also takes up some time. That’s not even enough time to try every member of the roster. This has led some fans to ask for a more standard demo of the game to be released instead.

So now we find ourselves caught between a rock and a hard place. One style of demo greatly restricts your access to the game’s features, so much so that it’s almost impossible to tell whether or not you like the game, and another greatly restricts your time with all features, so much so that it’s almost impossible to tell whether or not you like the game. Seems like a lose lose situation right?

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

This begs the question, should we rethink demos? Sony discussed this when the PS4 was first unveiled. The console would be capable of streaming games, and so some ideas were put on the table. The demo could drop you into a copy of someone else’s game, allowing you to play a game already in progress and see what the game is like without having any restrictions other than the fact that you are seeing someone else’s game.

Another idea was to curate demos like events. Steam does this a lot, giving players 100% unfettered access to a game over a weekend or something, and then locking the game afterward. But isn’t this just another version of the timed demo, with a longer time period?

Another way to treat demos like events is to literally run an event. Hold something like a newbie invitational tournament. A lot of these are held in real life on release night at Gamestops and other game stores. The idea would be to hold a digital tournament which would allow people to practice and play a game, but not access the game afterward.

What do you think? Are our demos flawed? Do we need to find some other way to let people try games as our technology gets better and better? Let us know in the comments, and tell us what demo format you’d like the most.

Angelo M. D'Argenio
Angelo M. D'Argenio

Senior Contributing Writer
Date: 08/20/2014

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