Why would Sony issue a demo for the potential system-selling "Killzone 2" only to people who have pre-ordered the game? Sony explained their unusual strategy to MTV Multiplayer, and dated a version of the demo that's for the rest of us.
What's a game demo good for? Showing off a game before it's released? Helping consumers decide whether to buy the game it's part of? Spreading buzz?
If these are a company's priorities, conventional wisdom is that a publisher releases a demo far and wide across Xbox Live and/or PlayStation Network. Really huge games, arguably, don't need a demo. So there was no demo for "Grand Theft Auto IV" or "Gears of War 2." But a less popular brand or an unproven one, say "Skate 2" or "Too Human" will get a demo. So to do some majors, like "Resident Evil 5."
And then there's the case of "Killzone 2," the lavish, graphically ambitious first-person shooter slated for February 27 release that could become the defining game of its genre for the PS3. It's getting a demo, but the demo is only being issued as a pre-order incentive for consumers at GameStop -- or so has been reported up until now.
Why would Sony do this? Isn't the practice of selling a demo to people who have already committed to order the game contrary to the logic of why one would release a demo?
MTV Multiplayer posed these questions to Sony and received this response from Scott Steinberg, vice president of product marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment America:
"Offering a playable demo to motivate preorders speaks to our confidence in the appeal of a game such as Killzone 2. We take this approach when we are convinced that the experience will cement a consumer's interest in purchasing. Retailers will then merchandise those demos within their stores and online to maximize their visibility. Through this process, consumers are often times able to reserve their copy of the final game, which provides an incentive to purchase and helps seal the deal. We also offer demos on the PSN, which we have done in the past with great success, and will continue to make that available. Killzone 2, for example, will have a downloadable demo launch in North America the week that the game is launching, for consumers who prefer that option."
GameStop.com currently prominently features its "Killzone 2" pre-order package on its front page and promises those who participate it that they'll get an access code for the demo e-mailed on February 2. (Sony has confirmed that the "Loco Roco 2" demo for PSP will also be released as a pre-order-only exclusive, though through multiple retailers.)
And what if you don't pre-order "Killzone 2" but want to try the demo? It's slated for release as a download from the PlayStation Network on PS3 for Thursday, February 26, a day before the game's official release date. That demo will be accessible to all PS3 owners.
Sony's strategy, while unconventional isn't atogether unexpected. Back at Game Developers Conference in March 2008, PS3 developer Dylan Cuthbert, whose Q Games created the PSN-exclusive "PixelJunk" series talked about the virtues of releasing a demo to people who are prepared to advocate positively for the developer's game. "It's like having your own little army," he had sad.
What's a demo good for? If Sony's "Killzone 2" play is a success, there will soon be one more answer to add to that list.