With the coronavirus continuing to spread, industry event organizers have pushed conferences like PAX completely online. Without an opportunity to engage players in-person, developers must polish their digital presence for a great first impression. Because it’s now more difficult to get a physical demo into a player’s hands without the benefits of a showroom floor, developers should be extra thoughtful about how they build and distribute their game demos. 

Strategies for Developing a Great Demo

One of the worst strategies you can take is to simply pull the first 10 minutes of the game and make it available for download because those first 10 minutes might not capture what makes your game unique and interesting. A successful demo requires a strategic, thoughtful approach.

Here’s how you can build a demo that people love:

1. Limit it to 15-20 minutes. That timeframe isn’t absolutely mandatory, but you should strike a careful balance between delivering a thrilling product and leaving your fans excited for more. When you’re planning your demo, consider the impact that a tutorial or storyline exposition could have on the overall length and experience. Keep these rules in mind:

  • Make your tutorial quick so that people can jump into the action as soon as possible.
  • Simplify your exposition. Even if the game’s storyline is critical to the overall experience, you should simplify the details in the demo so that fans don’t need to sit through 10 minutes of cutscenes.

Keeping your tutorial and exposition brief gives players more time to enjoy the gameplay.

2. Consider your presentation. Your demo should have excellent thumbnails, banner art, and written descriptions. Paying attention to your promotional materials and marketing draws more people into your game and makes them excited to open up your demo for their first experience. After all, no one will play the best demo if your promotional materials don’t get anyone interested.

Turnip Boy Reddit Post

3. Pay attention to your file size. Your goal is to have as many people as possible fall in love with your demo so that they buy the full game, but they may never play your demo if it takes too long to download. There are literally hundreds of thousands of games available online, so make sure fans can access yours quickly before they’re distracted by a competing title. 

4. Leverage partnerships. Partners can help you amplify your demo announcement. If you haven’t formed partnerships yet, network consistently to build relationships throughout the industry. Attend conferences, stay active in forums, and connect with industry insiders. The more people you know, the more opportunities you’ll experience to have your game featured on a prominent website or at an event.

5. Find a balance. Your demo shouldn’t take away from the development of your full game. Don’t become so concerned about the appearance or gameplay of your demo that you begin to push your deadlines back for the full release. Instead, strike a balance between quality, gameplay, and your own time so that you can remain focused on your primary goal: releasing a great game on schedule.

Get More From Your Demo

When you place the right amount of time, effort, and strategy into your demo, the results can be extremely beneficial to the development of your overall game. When people flock to your title, their feedback can be instrumental in how you improve upon the full version of your game.