It’s no secret that the base price of Playstation 5 AAA titles rose to $69.99 across the board. With a handful of release titles hitting that new price point, and plenty more on the way, that’s a lot of coin to take a gamble on new games. Unless you are abso-freaken-lutely certain you are going to love a game, there simply isn’t a chance of parting with that kind of money on what could end up being a dud or an incomplete mess. If only there was a way to test out a game to see if it’s for you.
Enter: The Game Demo.
It’s a pretty basic concept, and one that used to exist for just about all games out there. During the shareware days, you could download or try just about anything, eventually getting nagged to death or reaching the end of the playable demo. But currently, the developer themselves need to get a demo copy out ahead of time. That being said, most developers opt to never do this.
As a result of the lack of demos, lots of consumers turn to piracy to “try out” the game, as they feel like they are owed some sort of guarantee that they will enjoy their purchase. But what can and most certainly does happen is a percentage of those pirates who enjoy the game play it for many hours, but never end up paying for it.
Gabe Newell of Valve once famously cited piracy as a service problem, and not a pricing problem. He is absolutely right in this regard, and so it’s no wonder that Steam responded to years of complaints about a lack of refunds with the most rigid yet effective system yet – you have two hours to play a game, and if you don’t like it for any reason, you can return it instantly for a refund. It’s incredible, really, that they even grant you that long of a trial time, but with two hours you can basically guarantee yourself that you will enjoy a game for a good chunk of time.
Not only is this brilliant on Valve’s part, it actually inspires you to buy more games when they go on sale, because you can just let it sit in your library, trading it back in for credits if you later decide you don’t want it. The whole refund system has been very well received, and for good reason.
Yet when it comes to the Sony and Nintendo, the refund process is a bit more complex. You have to fill out some information and all that, but ultimately, from what I can find, it’s not as instantaneous or seamless as Steam’s system.
In fact, recently I picked up a digital copy of The Last of Us 2 as it was on sale – before realizing that a physical copy was going for the exact same price. I tried to get a refund on it, but as I had already (remotely) started downloading the game, I was shit out of luck. This really, really sucks, and pushes me even farther from ever buying more digital games. I’m not gambling on something I cannot return, or at least sell as used to get back some money – end of story.
A few of the Playstation 5’s launch titles intrigued me – but not the to the point where they’ll get me to part with $50-70. In fact, I don’t believe there is a single PS5 game that has a demo.
I’d love to try my hand at Demon’s Souls, but I know how frustrating games of that nature can get to me. Maybe this time will be different? Is it worth a gamble? Absolutely not – not for $70. The Pathless? Same thing, although this title is $50. DIRT 5 always seemed neat, but I’d need to play it for an hour or so to know if I’d stick with it. Observer: System Redux (is it too creepy?), No Man’s Sky (is it satisfying to play?), WRC 9 (do I like the physics better than DIRT 5?), etc. They all look awesome, but I need to get that X-factor that only fellow gamers can understand to know if I’ll keep playing it. I’d love to do a comparison of two motocross games to see which one feels better – nope, can’t do that.
OK fine, then I’ll just buy neither. Great work Sony, truly the master salesman.
As an aside, is there even a demos section on the Playstation Store? Because I haven’t been able to find anything, and searching for the word “demo” yields all kinds of junk with no ability to sort in any meaningful way.
I remember reading some rumors about how PS Now would have some sort of innovative, “instant-demo” system in place, where the streaming would literally just drop you into the game and let you play. That’s something so cool, I have no idea how it’s not a thing yet. We have the technology, Sony!
Every video game console manufacturer needs to take a look at precisely one company: Valve. Then copy all of their business practices. They literally turned tens of millions of pirates into customers overnight and built a cash-printing empire around holiday sales. Mirror their refund system or come up with a solution to try out games – the solutions have already been found, you just need to figure out how to implement them.