Xbox man on making better demos
Live Arcade planner's tips and tricks.
Xbox Live Arcade's worldwide games portfolio planner David Edery has doled out some tips on his blog to help developers make more successful demo versions of their games - something that even the best XBLA titles sometimes foul up.
A few of the lessons would seem fairly obvious to hardened players ("Don't confuse or frustrate the player"), but others are worth remembering, and echo a lot of the things you and I have been shouting at games for the last decade. "Show off your best features" being a particularly important one: how many times have you given up on something only for a friend to tell you "it gets really good later on"?
Two of the ones to which you'd imagine developers would be listening particularly closely though are not to do with demo construction itself, but marketing - Edery's first and penultimate points. His first was that PR is "not just for Halo". Citing the example of The Behemoth (the devs behind Alien Hominid and upcoming XBLA title Castle Crashers), he points out that "conversion rates [from demo to purchase] are influenced by anticipation". "Imagine being faced with two games, both of relatively equal quality. One has been hyped in the press for months. One is unheard of. Your friends are all talking about the first game. You yourself have been looking forward to it. But the other game is just as good. Which are you going to buy?"
And then the other point is "Work that upsell message". "Every other trial is promising 'more levels', 'more characters', blah blah etc. Why is your game different?"
It's all quite interesting for people who like taking a peep behind the curtain, and got us wondering about which were the most and least effective demos we've played. Crackdown and Skate spring to mind as recent decents. And then of course there was the old-days excitements of Quake shareware. Obviously we're too polite to list really bad examples, but we hope you'll do that for us.