Study: Publishers Shouldn’t Release Demos, Just Trailers

Demos may be the best way to find out if you like a game, but releasing one might not be in a publisher’s best financial interest, according to a study discussed at last week’s MI6 video game marketing conference.

This is the same study, presented by Gregory Short and Geoffery Zatkin, heads of the Electronic Entertainment Design and Research Group (EEDAR), which recommended marketing teams should work with developers to come up with an Xbox 360 game’s Achievements.

While demos may be effective at producing word-of-mouth, the EEDAR found that the highest selling games on both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 produced buzz via Xbox Live Marketplace and PlayStation Network with trailers alone.

There are some other interesting bits extrapolate, so let’s look at how the sales break down…

Though demos have become commonplace a few weeks ahead of a game’s release, the EEDAR found that trailers are more effective than hands-on time with the product. Short and Zatkin actually recommended publishers start producing demos only after release to avoid interference with the final weeks of polish.

These findings appear consistent across both Xbox 360 and PS3 since the launch of the machines, except in one instance. Games that did not release a trailer or demo on PSN performed better at retail than games on Xbox 360. On Xbox 360, it appears, publishers are better off releasing something, whether that’s just a demo, just a trailer or both elements.

It doesn’t seem likely demos are going away anytime soon — especially for titles that can’t afford a strong TV and online marketing campaign — but the numbers suggest larger games may benefit from avoiding a demo.

Readers, what would you do if publishers stopped releasing demos? Do you think a new game like “BioShock” would have been as popular if there wasn’t a demo? As the study implies, could it have been more popular if it was only teased as a trailer?

Have a hot tip? Is there a topic that Multiplayer should be covering and isn’t? Maybe you know why demos perform better on Xbox 360. Drop me an e-mail.