I’d be super interested to know what the industry’s pre-order numbers look like over the past decade, and how presales have been trending overall. I know that, personally, I used to be incredibly guilty of pre-ordering games. I’d get caught up in the hype, in securing the preorder bonuses, telling myself “I definitely want to play that game, so why not just order it now?”
I started doing that drastically less within the past few years, and in fact I can’t even recall the last game I pre-ordered. Spider-man for the PS4, perhaps, and that was “pre-ordered” about 48 hours before release. I feel like the emphasis on pre-orders has declined as well a bit over the past couple of years… or am I just getting better at tuning it out? I know for sure the practice is out of favor with the vocal contingent, but how does that translate to actual sales? Are pre-orders still a big thing amongst the silent majority, or have they all felt burned too many times as well by buggy, patch-starved launches?
I was shocked this past week to find that, when I went to consider purchasing Desperados 3 on Steam, that there was an option to download a demo. I feel like that’s such a rarity these days that I did a double take to make sure it wasn’t some oddly-worded earlier-access nonsense.
Suffice to say, I downloaded the demo, loved it (incredible stealth gameplay, no surprise given the Shadow Tactics pedigree), and purchased the full title. I understand why demos are problematic for developers; you either have to showcase the slower, potentially duller early ‘tutorial’ levels, or throw the player into a more exciting later game section with no idea how the mechanics work. OR, you custom-craft a demo experience to showcase what the meat of your game is really like, but that costs precious development hours that the game proper needs.
Still, it’s hard not to wonder if demos kept some developers… I don’t know, more “honest,” for lack of a better word? Obviously it’s a lot less work to splice together a trailer of the juiciest gameplay, and a lot easier that way to avoid showing bugs, or general half-assery.