Idea: An Alternative Way To Sell Video Games

My dream is to one day work on a little indie survival horror zombie game. Pathetically cheesy, I know. But hey, zombies are popular for a reason. The temporary artwork is below. I can’t reveal the name because it’s just too damn perfect and I’m paranoid about someone else taking it. One of the things I’d like to try is to distribute my theoretical game using a sort of “in-app-purchase” scheme. The same one smartphone app developers use…Maybe I’m stupid, or naive, or maybe this has been done before with PC Games and failed (update: studies show demos do NOT help sell games, ouch). But this is what I want to try:

On my game’s website they will see the above screen. They can download the demo from my server or through bittorrent. Or if they’re feeling lucky they can go ahead and purchase either a digital copy from me or a digital copy with physical case.

First 2/5ths of the game will be free:
The first 2/5ths will be considered the game’s “demo” and no I won’t pull the demo as soon as the game is released like certain publishers do ಠ_ಠ (you know who you are). The free version will include the core of the game (single & multiplayer) with the first 4 campaigns (2/5ths) of story mode. From all my years of gaming, I’ve never gotten 2/5ths into a game and then abandoned it. 2/5ths in and I was too attached to the characters, story, and plot to put it down. By then I had gotten used to the gameplay and controls so I hung in there till the end. Otherwise, that’s one hell of a cliffhanger. To get 2/5ths in and not know what happens next.

I also, like many other gamers, have gotten “screwed over” one too many times by a lack of demos for PC games. We PC gamers can’t rent games, we don’t get demos most of the time, and with digital content delivery we can’t resell our games like console owners can. So it’s extremely important that gamers see the final finished game (or at least a part of it) so they can try it out, see how it runs on their system and solve or report issues. To this day, I still can’t play 4 PC games I bought and paid for because they were “shitty ports” or badly programmed and can’t run on my PC (despite meeting the requirements *cough*gta4*fromdust*deadspace*citiesxl*cough*).

Because Traditional Demos Have Little Emotional Hook:
Usually demos feature a short section of the most action packed or enticing part of a game. Same with movie trailers. So it shows off game play and graphics but without properly introducing the characters, story, plot, and setting we can’t get emotionally hooked. And it’s emotions that we find difficult to tear away from. Numerous games have the same gameplay, the same visual style, the same level of graphics, and sometimes the same execution of their idea (Ninja Gaiden 2 & Ninja Blade). They shouldn’t be showcasing something that other games have, they should be showcasing their emotional values. And it takes time to discover those values. Which is why it’s important to properly introduce players to a game’s emotional set pieces.

No Bait-n-Switch:
Also by using the first 2/5ths of the game as the demo I will avoid confusing or over-hyping my game with bait-n-switch demo tactics. Many times the demo will show things that the full game doesn’t have. WTF. Sometimes entire scenes are deleted (Resident Evil 2), destructible environments are taken out (The Bouncer), music changes, character models change, and levels are heavily altered. The formula for “disappointment” is to basically promise one thing but deliver another.

Once they download the free version I’ll show them this screen either at startup or when they exit the game.

They can move the slider to the right and upgrade to a digital copy of the full game or a digital copy + physical copy that’s mailed to their house. If they already own a digital copy of my game, meaning they have a serial key (ex: F738-4v5-6h4-34r-235f) and love the game so much they want to have a physical copy of it, that’s fine…

They don’t have to rebuy the physical version, they can just pay a the difference and get their physical copy, that includes a printed note with the serial key of their digital copy (ex: F738-4v5-6h4-34r-235f), in the mail. Now technically the right thing to do business-wise would be to offer a 1 or 2 dollar discount to buyers who get the physical and digital together but because PC gamers are fickle and quick to torrent I don’t want to piss them off so I won’t pull any marketing tricks on them.

In the future if I release any downloadable content the expansion and its price will simply be the added onto the slider as the 4th option from the left.

Anyway, I’m sure there’s something I’m overlooking or some really good reason why this might not work. Feel free to point out why this may not work in the comments.