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Death Of The Demo: $5 Game Rentals

Boris Johnson, presenting expensive demos of an easily-obtained item. Just buy a bloody bike, lazies.

“Why no demo?” is a regular plea around these parts, all manner of game-makers both independent and mainstream apparently believing that trailers and press releases are all that’s required to imbue a gamer with a sense of what their creation is like. Demos are on the decline, blighted by the twin forces of requiring extra dev manhours and fears that people may be so sated by their contents that they have no need of the full product. I think that’s poppycock, but unfortunately the games industry doesn’t listen to me.

What if there was another way to assess whether a PC game made your brain sing? Direct2Drive are experimenting, with a rental-via-download system. Pay to play before you pay, if you will.

That the current roster of supported titles is, frankly, pitiful does little to sell the service, but let’s try and see past the ludicrous concept of paying $5 for five hours’ access to Silent Hill: Homecoming, Grid, FEAR and Divinity 2 and to the essential idea underneath.

It’s okay, right? $5 is maybe just high enough to feel off-putting as a trial fee ($2.99 seems more comfortable), but it’s in the right ballpark. If they could offer this with more contemporary titles, it’s a neat way of getting around demo-lack. One thing I do like is that your initial $5 will go towards the full price if you decide to pay for the whole shebang, though of course you’re then locked into whatever fee D2D have elected, which could get exceptionally messy. What if it’s still cheaper to grab it from somewhere else?

Conceptually though, it’s interesting. Data is data, download speeds are ever increasing, and pretending a game is locked in some inaccessible vault only opened by the magic number $40 is increasingly absurd.

OnLive is, theoretically speaking, doing a similar thing, though in a sense more appealingly by insta-streaming rather than requiring a full download, but frankly I prefer this system if it expands. I want the game, not a remotely-served, interactive video of the game.

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Alec Meer

Senior Editor

Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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