Wii U: Once You Get Free Demos, You Can’t Go Back

I downloaded my first free game demo to my Wii U last night: Rayman Legends. The last time I gave the game a serious spin was a couple months ago at the Wii U Experience event in Los Angeles, so I didn’t really go into it blind – I’d already played it multiple times before.

Yet something about having that demo experience in my hands in my own living room and getting the chance to play it at a more leisurely pace just clicked with me in ways that event and in-store demos just can’t match. It highlighted something for me that I always suspected but never really fully understood: the importance of trying before you buy.

After playing the latest demo, I’m now 100% confident in my choice to purchase Rayman Legends. It’s funny, because I feel like I already walked away basically totally decided when I first tried it out at E3. Seeing the subtle changes and updates to the game since then, however, has been surprisingly powerful in reaffirming that decision. The math doesn’t really make sense – I was 100% confident before, and I’m 100% confident now – and yet it feels like my satisfaction with the game has increased!

What’s more, now that I’ve gotten to try out a free demo on my very own Wii U, I want to be able to get the same pre-release buzz from every other game on my radar – Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101, and Game & Wario, just to name a few. Sadly, Nintendo hasn’t really offered any demos for any of their first-party or third-party published games on the horizon.

The fact of the matter is that demos for these titles already exist – I’ve played them at various events – so there’s really no excuse for holding them back from the public and reserving them for the press. All of these games have had their big announcement spotlights, have had us online bloggers and journalists delivering sharp initial perspectives on what stands out and where the weaknesses are. The real people developers – Nintendo included – need to sell to in the end, however, are the gaming public, not the exclusive press crowd. So these demos shouldn’t just be something that the public consumes vicariously through IGN, through Destructoid, or through GenGAME – they should be available to everybody who’s interested in giving them a try.

And I say this as a member of the press, as one of the guys who actually has access to a good number of opportunities to test-drive these games before they go gold.

Could the widespread availability of game demos impact the gaming press’s relevance? Yeah, maybe, since gamers won’t have to come to us to find out what these demos are like. But in an economy that’s struggling to get back on its feet, game companies need to be doing everything they can to more successfully sell their products to consumers. The “try before you buy” effect, at least for me, is easily the most effective tool for drawing me in and getting me excited about upcoming games.

Nintendo knows the importance of getting games in people’s hands – yet they’re oddly stubborn about keeping their demos on show floors or behind closed doors. What I would have given to be able to take the Skyward Sword demos home and share them with my family and friends!

So, developers, don’t hold back your game demos – set them free!