Demos, huh! what are they good for?

Demos, huh! what are they good for?

If you’re an indie dev (and I hope you are because that’s who this guide is written for) you’ve probably spotted, especially around the event season, that indie game demos are everywhere. Perhaps you’ve even been told that your team needs to make one. Whilst it’s easy enough to simply follow the crowd and get a demo drawn up – which we do recommend – we thought it may be useful to explain exactly what a good demo of your game has.

So, this guide will take you through all the facets of your game’s marketing that a demo can complement – from festivals, to press, to community. Let’s go!

Tied in with news beats

The release of a demo out into the wild, alone and afraid, can sometimes not be enough to grab the press’s attention – especially if your game is still building its public awareness.

As mentioned in this article – ‘What is news and how do you share it?’, news is best when combining multiple exciting things about your game into one tasty bundle. A demo makes an excellent cherry on the top of an announcement or launch – and gives you the chance to start making relationships with the press most relevant to your game by offering early keys.

Events and festivals

Steam festivals have always been popular events for developers and players alike, with the prospect of audience reach for the former, and the tasty lure of discounts for the latter. Now with more and more coming down the pipeline – indie games are truly looking to make their mark on the Steam events they can.

Festivals, especially those on Steam, are free to enter and instead come with requirements of your game to enter – such as release status, account standing, development timeline and, more often than not, the existence of a demo.

Whilst in previous years, Steam events saw a shift to more AAA game previews – as Chris Zukowski over at How to Market a Game has spotted, Steam festivals are “getting more egalitarian with the more modest games earning more wishlists compared to previous festivals.” If you’re interested in the specific data of previous Steam festivals, you can check out the statistics Zukowski has collected.

Alongside the possibility of boosted wishlists – and it is very much a possibility – participation in festivals with a demo can also work as a small way to keep the press engaged with your work. Whilst participating in the festival alone isn’t as effective as the news beats described in the paragraph above, sending around a well-timed press mailout once your demo goes live at least keeps your game in the eye of the press – and if you catch the right person at the right time, may influence your chances of being included in an event/festival round-up article. For more information on why building wishlists is important for your game, check out our blog on the topic here.

Community building

Building a community is hard, and it’s even harder when you don’t have something to incentivise those interested players down the funnel towards being active, engaged members of your community. 

A demo can be an excellent way to bring those Twitter repliers, Reddit commenters, or Tiktok followers together to a core community base – usually hosted on a Discord server. Keep in mind that the type of ‘demo’ you may share with a community may differ from one you may share via a festival, or through a press/investor pitch. A nurtured community, offered transparent updates, can grow alongside the polish and completion of your work.

Working with a marketing team

Lastly, a demo is an excellent, concise way to communicate your game to any future marketing support you may be looking for. If a team is able to play your title, they’ll immediately be able to get a feel of who you are and what your game is doing that’s extra special.

So, that’s why making a demo is a pretty good idea. Making sure your demo stands out against the crowd, however, is an entirely different piece. If you’d like to see an article on that topic, drop us a tweet at @gameifyouare!

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