Jesse Schell: Releasing A Demo Can Cut Sales in Half
Puzzle Clubhouse CEO and respected analyst Jesse Schell explained that releasing a game demo can actually be detrimental to sales.
In a presentation at DICE 2013, Schell produced a graph of Xbox 360 sales figures to illustrate his point, explaining how the games that sold the most were games that built expectation in players, but that didn’t offer them the opportunity to try the game out freely. He said:
“You mean we spent all this money making a demo and getting it out there, and it cut our sales in half? Yes, that’s exactly what happened to you.”
Schell explained that the way to generate the best sales was to tease gamers with a trailer, but then give them no way to try the game beyond picking up a copy. “The things with no demo, you’ve gotta buy it if you want to try it,” he said.
Here’s the full presentation. Schell makes his point ten minutes in:
Now, my knee-jerk reaction is to say that’s poppycock, that releasing a demo would only hurt the sales of bad games. But upon deeper reflection, it makes sense. I wish it weren’t true, because I believe every game should release a demo, but from a marketing and business perspective, its the kind of practice that fills publisher pockets with green.