Some of you may not know this about me, but I’m a Gamer. Not just a little bit, but the kind of gamer who looks for every opportunity to turn my console on or load up Steam. I’m incredibly attached. I was raised with it being a key part of my upbringing, my mother utilizing the visual storytelling medium to excite me as a child with its endless possibilities. I was lucky in that, but it turned me into an adult who is consistently fascinated with gaming as a whole.
The problem I run into as an adult video game enthusiast? Simple: there’s never enough time. Between having a child, working for a living, taking part in several podcasts, and having a social life, gaming generally has to come somewhere in-between one or two of those things. When I come across a new game that I want to play, a lot of times I have to factor in just when I’ll play it and if I have that kind of time to sink into it. Demos become my best friend because I can then see if a game is something to which I’ll find myself devoting time or if I’m just going to shrug and move to another game after spending money on the title already.
Demos are a working-class parent’s best friend.
With this notion in mind, I was studying the inside case to one of my favorite games of this year — Mass Effect 3 — and noted there was an insert for special armor and weapons if you tried a game’s demo from the same publisher. The game is called Kingdoms of Amalur and, if you downloaded the demo and played it all the way through, you would unlock special armor for your main character in Mass Effect, Commander Shepard. It gave me a little peek at what the armor would look like and I gasped audibly. It was beautiful! So what was my next step?
I downloaded the demo.
Now bear in mind that I really had no desire to play this game and I was really already thinking I’d just go through the motions. I had heard very little about Kingdoms of Amalur in the first place and I had remembered that the studio responsible for it had shut down due to major budget issues through no fault of the game’s own. The game had done quite well from a review standpoint and some people were saying it was what Skyrim should’ve been — but still? I hadn’t any interest in a new game. So, you know, why bother? Until you wave some flashy armor for my main character in my favorite game in my face and then suddenly I’m clamoring for a demo to a title I’d never even cared for before that day.
It downloaded, installed, and booted up and then, my friends, it was all over.
Small windows popped up to let me know I had unlocked several items and that if I finished the demo, more would be unlocked. I tapped buttons to get to the actual game and found myself endlessly entranced. I had worried about a demo for a game of this magnitude because how does a gaming company decide how far to let a player go before cutting them off? Kingdoms of Amalur lets you wander around after the first main quest mission is complete for a full hour to get a feel for the world, the inventory system, and the combat and then it cuts you off. By the time the demo was over, I was absolutely hooked and had forgotten that I was even doing this for special items at all! The little window popped up and told me I had unlocked my items in Mass Effect 3 and a nice “Thank you for playing” was ushered to me.
That, gentle reader, is how you do a demo.
It lured me in with the promise of an item for a game I already owned and then, upon playing it, I found it to actually be terribly entertaining. What does this mean for the average gamer? It means that you search high and low for a place in town that has it and eagerly purchase it to have it in your hands as immediately as possible.
That game has an insert for special items from your favorite game, Mass Effect 3.
Is your mind blown? Mine was. By inputting a code, I unlocked Mass Effect 3 themed items for my character in Kingdoms of Amalur and, if I decided to go play Mass Effect 3, I would then unlock more weapons for use in the game as well. This meant that these two games were running in beautiful tandem to offer quality items that linked both of their favorite worlds together and I dug that. Sure, the armor and weapons I received in Mass Effect 3 were thrilling, but the Shepard inspired items that I got to use in Kingdoms? Absolutely gorgeous. Sure, it may seem like a silly dynamic to get people to play your games, but guess what? It works. We’re all a bunch of quiet collectors who want to be able to say “Look what I have.” And this is the video game equivalent of collecting figurines to me.
EA did a stellar job of cross-promoting its titles with promises of unlockables if you just played a demo. Hell, it will give you something for the demo, but if you actually buy the game — not only will you enjoy the hell out of it — it’ll give you more items, too, for both games. It is an exciting and fun little marketing ploy that, honestly, I’m fine with having taking part. If more games did this with people’s favorite titles of that time, maybe you’d see a spike in sales for other games, too.
As of right now, I’m favoring titles like Mass Effect, Uncharted, and Kingdoms of Amalur pretty heavily. Once October hits, I know those games will all be set aside for Resident Evil 6 and I would love to see games from companies like Sony and Capcom to work on this kind of incentive program, too. Perhaps they can offer people who try upcoming games like The Last of Us or those who own Dragon’s Dogma a chance to unlock things if they try the demos to these new titles. Cross-promoting games isn’t unheard of whatsoever as EA has done it before with Dragon’s Age armor in Mass Effect and Dead Space items, as well. Guess who has those, too? (Hint: Me.) I’m not saying I need a new item in order to play a game, but to anyone on the fence, it’s a genius move.
Either way, I now own another brilliant game peddled to me by EA. I may not agree with a lot of the company’s sales tactics, but this was a good one. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some video games to finish.
Have you ever been sold on a demo alone? Has the promise of unlocking special items ever seemed worthy enough to try something out? Maybe it is the promise, even in your day-to-day life, that if you sit through something, you’ll be rewarded? Do you think this is a reasonable marketing strategy? Share your thoughts!
Images via EA