With another (albeit diminutive) Nintendo Direct behind us, Nintendo released another demo of yet another highly anticipated title shortly before launch, this time for a remake of the cult JRPG classic Live A Live. It’s a model that the company has built over the years and has only gotten better over time: many demos now offer the ability to transfer progress to full games after they’re released, usually after a few weeks. This is a powerful free service for Nintendo exclusives, in stark contrast to the almost non-existent counterparts offered on Sony and Microsoft hardware.
Although Microsoft and Sony have recently embraced the idea of showcasing games in one form or another, their approach is a far cry from Nintendo’s. Sony, for example, is running several limited-time trials of some of its exclusives, with Horizon Forbidden West being one of the first supported games. As with some Nintendo titles on offer, you’ll be able to continue your progress in Horizon if you’d like to immerse yourself in the full game as well.
The catch, however, is that the Horizon game trial isn’t free – instead, it’s offered as a bonus for PlayStation Plus subscribers, and only for those currently paying for the highest membership tier. It seems unwise to offer trials only to customers who have already invested so deeply in the ecosystem, and not to a wider group of potential new customers. This is especially true given Sony’s decision not to add new exclusives to these PS Plus tiers as soon as they launch.
Here Microsoft’s solution is slightly different. Yes, the company also doesn’t offer demos in the traditional sense and doesn’t have a trial play system like Sony does, but it solves that problem by offering Xbox Game Pass. There is no need to provide paywall demos, or perhaps offer them at all, when all Microsoft exclusive games are offered in full as part of a subscription. It still requires you to pay a monthly fee for the privilege, which gives Nintendo a head start in terms of cost given that all of its demo offerings are free, but it’s definitely a cross between it and Sony.
Microsoft is also working on adding demos as another value proposition to Xbox Game Pass, which will likely be for games that aren’t part of its exclusive stable version. It is expected to go on sale within the next year, but details on how it will work are unclear. However, Microsoft does run a few demos for indie games during special events like the recently held Summer Game Fest.
Demos exist on Xbox and PlayStation consoles, but for the most part they are small deals that are only available a few months after launch. Nintendo, on the other hand, has a habit of releasing its own demos before or, in the worst case, shortly after a game’s launch, which usually ties it in well with the release cycle of the game in question. It’s also just a consumer program that gives you the chance to try out a part of the game before you buy it, so you can make a decision based on your own experience with it. Not all demos offered by Nintendo will carry over your progress to the full game. The ones that do are mostly RPGs, or the ones where the demos are the early hours of the game that would be frustrating to replay. Carrying over your progress is an added benefit, ensuring your time isn’t wasted if you decide the game is what you want to continue, whether it’s at launch or much later.
Many of these demos are just limited snippets of the beginning of the games they allow you to try out, cutting down on some of the work required to make them available (and presumably providing the aforementioned progress transfer). Some exceptions, such as the demos of Metroid Dread and Kirby and the Forgotten Land, are slightly more personalized parts of their respective games, allowing you to get a good feel for all of the core mechanics in a shorter amount of time. Either approach requires some development time and an investment that isn’t free, but seems like a worthwhile expense that Nintendo is willing to invest in.
The scope and breadth of these demos offered by Nintendo are definitely different from those offered by Sony (for example, the Horizon Forbidden West limited trial gives you full access to the game for a limited time) and may not provide a general idea of the game such as access, offered by Microsoft Game Pass, but they are much more efficient due to the way they are offered. By requiring no upfront cash investment to access demos, Nintendo supports itself by fully targeting potential new customers, providing consumers with an authentic way to try out a variety of games before they launch.
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