Sometimes, pickiness is a virtue. When it comes to arcade games on Xbox platforms, I’m the pickiest of them all.
You won’t find me ponying up 15 dollars here and 20 dollars there for a title I may or may not enjoy. It becomes too expensive for too much uncertainly with the little gaming time I have in a day.
In recent years, though, I’ve bypassed the slop and muck of arcade games by, surprise, actually playing them. Well, sort of.
You’ve probably already guessed it. I’m talking about the service of free trial versions for every arcade game that launches on Xbox 360.
If I’m somewhat interested in a title — click — a free download has started so I can try out a small chuck of the game. If it pulls me in, I’m more than willing to pull out my wallet. If it doesn’t, I’m happy to uninstall the trial from my hard drive and move on.
This service is a quiet favorite of mine. It’s my companion of sorts, wading out the titles I’m not interested in by doing what I do best: playing games.
It has helped me explore new genres, discover smaller hits, and return to classic franchises — all while saving me hundreds of dollars along the way.
But this isn’t just my own experience. Thousands have benefited from this system. So, you can imagine I wasn’t the only one disappointed to learn that Xbox One is forgoing, at least temporarily, the service of trial versions.
However, The Behemoth project manager Emil Ayoubkhan says the decision isn’t of major concern to them from a development perspective, while Wedbush Securities managing director Michael Pachter says it’s not a big deal due to the landscape of the industry today.
“This doesn’t really concern us. Although our previous titles all included trial versions, it's not something we're specifically tied to in our development,” Ayoubkhan said. “If it makes sense to provide a trial or demo experience we will try to make it work, but if the game presents itself in a way that would not require it, we won't force anything into the design. “
“This is really a non-event,” Pachter explained. “If there is a great game there without a demo, it will be found because the industry is so ridiculously over covered by journalists, bloggers, fan commentary, etc.”
Ayoubkhan notes one new Xbox One feature that may become a new standard that succeeds trials and demos moving forward.
“With the ‘Upload’ system that Xbox ONE has integrated, I think the new standard will be to look at videos generated by people who actually purchased the game, and then forming an opinion based on that. Although you won’t actually be able to play the game before you purchase it, you still are able to get a very strong sense of what you’re getting into by viewing several user created videos from the game.”
Still it’s hard to argue against the importance of trial versions. Take a game like State of Decay for example. Undead Labs did their best at marketing the game before release, but when it finally launched, it was the trial that proved to be the flame that caught on to sell over a million copies.
“Good games tend to sell well,” Ayoubkhan adds. “This isn't a groundbreaking discovery really. Nothing is guaranteed though, even if you do have a great game in your hands. You have to make the effort to market your game, and make sure the press, consumers, whoever else, has a chance to see it, read about it, touch it, get an apartment together, take long walks on the beach, etc, etc.”
“One great thing that we always try to accomplish is taking our games to the various gaming conventions that exist throughout the year. While at these shows we engage with our fans, show them what we are working on and most importantly gather feedback on our current build of whatever game we're working on. We've been doing this since Alien Hominid in 2004, and it has helped us refine our game experiences. Since we are so active in taking our games to these shows we always try to have some type of tradeshow demo ready throughout the development process. In a sense this serves as our trial for the game while in development.”
But maybe I’m just picky. Maybe you’re picky too. Perhaps this is just something that comes along with a new generation. Or maybe we’ll all just have to get better at searching for games we’ll enjoy. And maybe we already have.
Where do you stand on the issue of trial versions for arcade games? Let us know in the comments below.
Tate Steinlage is a regular freelance writer for GameZone. You can find his musings on Twitter @SteinlageT.