Earlier this year, Cacpom shocked the world by releasing a releasing a free demo of Resident Evil 7.
That sounds like an odd statement, doesn’t it? After all, video game demos have been a part of the industry for years now. There was a time, in fact, when most companies were expected to give the public a playable demo of their game before shipping out the real deal.
That time has not been the last few years. Somewhere along the way, developers felt that there was no longer any need to produce a demo for every major release. There were exceptions, of course, but they were just that. Exceptions. The rule was that if people wanted to play your game, they would need to but the retail version to do so.
Resident Evil 7 being announced at all was enough of a shock, but the reveal that people would be able to play a piece of it so far away from the game’s actual release was downright unbelievable. More than just a throwback, this classic approach to game promotion ended up generating a level of buzz for the game throughout the year that couldn’t have been achieved through any other means.
I hope you enjoyed the Resident Evil 7 demo experience because it’s likely just the start of a new future where “free” is seen a the best way to promote a game.
We’ve been seeing this trend take hold slowly over the last few years. The rise of the indie scene and the digital sales market have been forcing publishers to lower prices across the board. Elsewhere, a new wave of developers has discovered that free games can be more lucrative than $60 games so long as you fill them with enough microtransactions.
What’s coming next is going to be a little different. In the very near future, developers are going to be begged to release either full games for free or a taste of the experience for the same price. Who is going to be begging them? Companies like Twitch whose partnership with Amazon has just led to them creating a monthly giveaway program. Console manufacturers like Microsoft and Sony who are trying to push bold new systems as well as online subscription services that offer free games every month.
Everywhere you look, everyone with stakes in the industry is already starting to test the boundaries of what free can do for them. Most are discovering what Capcom did this year which is that free is simply an investment towards a more lucrative future.
But the party most responsible for this upcoming consumer-friendly initiative will be the consumers themselves. That’s you. So long as companies who offer free games are showered with praise and money, the appeal of such programs has nowhere to go but up.
In other words, 2017 is going to be a great year for free games.