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Do you buy or avoid a game based on its demo? It’s an interesting situation with the modern expectation that most games, especially sporting titles, will offer a free demo several weeks before release. Are these actually useful in convincing you to buy a game, or do they even sometimes have to opposite effect and deter you?

There’s been a lot of talk over the Fifa 12 demo of late, due to its new defensive approach and hilarious glitches. However, has the demo influenced your decision to buy or avoid the game tomorrow? Was your mind already made up long before the demo? Or perhaps you’ve avoided it completely, knowing you are going to buy Fifa 12 regardless?

While demos are expected for a lot of multiplatform titles on PSN and Xbox Live, shooters have found a way to offer fans what they desperately crave, while circumventing the possibility of discouraging potential buyers.

Instead of traditional demos, games like Battlefield 3 offer multiplayer “betas” to consumers who have already pre-ordered the game. This audience is likely to be intent on the purchase, but still get the early demonstration that is expected. It also benefits the developer, giving them a practice run to iron out minor issues.

However, that isn’t a demo. A demo, by its very nature, is designed to give us a free taste before committing to a purchase. At least, that was its original purpose. These days, the chat on forums seems to be from people who have a premeditated decision about the game. They know they will buy it and still play the demo.

Maybe it’s just the type of people who populate online forums or bother to comment on a demo, but you rarely see anyone proclaim they will avoid a game as a direct result of playing the trial version. It used to happen more in the past, but after being inundated with so many demos and betas over the past few years, their purpose in allowing you try before you buy has been diminished somewhat.

Back before online gaming, demos used to be sacred. They were exclusive bonuses with certain magazines and were to be treasured. They were selected carefully, rarely riddled with horrifying glitches, and more of a PR stunt than anything else. However, they were special and much loved.

Now you fly through a demo in 10 minutes before moving to the next one, if you even bother anymore at all. I’ve slowly been reducing the number of demos I bother to play, knowing that I will buy the game regardless.

The exception, perhaps, is Apps. Even though most iOS Apps only cost a handful of dollars, I’m still weary of most of them and find myself downloading the free “lite” version before deciding if it’s worth my $1.19. Maybe there has been a resurgence in demos determining if software should be purchased after all.

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