The Biggest Demo Backfires Ever
The Resident Evil 6 review scores are pouring in and Capcom’s action-adventure-survival-horror-shooter (delete as appropriate) is hitting scores from 3/10 lows to 9/10 highs.
We loved it as our Resident Evil 6 review shows yet its not the reviews that will have done the most damage to potential sales. If anything, it’s the recent demo that is putting people off Capcom’s title, thanks to the uninspiring mix of bland action and QTEs to showcase its title.
Even so, Resident Evil 6 isn’t the biggest demo backfires this gen…
HOUR OF VICTORY
Released: 30 May 2007
Why It Backfired: Game was awful
If Oblivion’s Horse Armour was a watershed moment for DLC as the uproar forced publishers to rethink the price of extra content, then Hour Of Victory was its equivalent for playable demos.
With hindsight, its easy to dismiss this as an obvious case of awful-game-gets-awful-demo yet Hour Of Victory managed to keep up the pretence of being a decent title for far, far longer than it had the right to.
Midway was making the right noises about its World War II project. We learned it was the second-highest rated concept at the publisher, N-Fusion was taking the subject matter seriously and it even had three different characters with unique abilities. Gimmicky but it would stand out in a wave of World War II-themed shooters.
Then the demo hit Xbox Live. Whether it was overconfidence from the developers or a rare moment of honesty from the marketing department, they decided the world should get their hands on Hour Of Victory. It was brutally exposed as a mess of glitches, bugs, woeful AI, scrappy gameplay and unpolished mechanics.
This video is taken from the final game but imagine this condensed in demo form. Hideous.
Released: 14 July 2008
Why It Backfired: Caused Denis Dyack meltdown
Too Human wasn’t awful, nor was it particularly good. The demo reflected its strengths (loot mechanic, lovely music) and its weaknesses (awkward controls, scrappy visuals). It was a fair reflection of the game it was showing off.
In that respect, there was nothing particularly remarkable about the Too Human demo. What made it was the backstory surrounding its release and the meltdown it caused.
Too Human had been involved in a protracted development saga lasting almost 10 years, so there was some inevitable cynicism over whether the final game would be any good following development hell lasting that long. One of those debates was taking place on gaming forum NeoGAF when the founder of developer Silicon Knights, Denis Dyack, showed up to defend his project.
As with all internet arguments, things quickly escalated out of control, with Dyack himself creating a thread demanding NeoGAF members declare themselves as ‘for’ or ‘against’ Too Human.
Then the demo for Too Human was finally released. While the argument was previously limited by a your-word-against-mine ceiling as Dyack was the only one who had played the final game, the public demo fuelled the fire again and escalated the spat to the point where Denis Dyack was actually banned from NeoGAF.
In an industry where PRs and marketing departments keep everything and everyone on message, Dyack’s outburst was extraordinary and he’s kept a low profile since.
And all over an unremarkable demo. People, eh?
MARVEL VS CAPCOM 2
Released: 30 April 2009
Why It Backfired: Local two-player only
We don’t know the full technical ins and outs of how games are made. We’ve been to game studios and the producer will show us a floor full of programmers. “This is John, he colours in the trees on level three!” he’ll say, wafting his hand through the air. We’ll smile and nod but John might as well be a witch slowly stirring a bubbling cauldron for all the sense it makes to us.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying we have no idea why the PSN-exclusive demo for Marvel vs Capcom 2 only let you play local two-player.
You couldn’t play online. You couldn’t play against the CPU. If was just you versus another player. If you didn’t have someone to play it with? Then it was you versus a glorified training dummy.
Perhaps there was a technical reason for this limitation that our simple peasant minds will never understand and that would be fair enough.
But in a game where the main draw is multiplayer and the big question was if the netcode would creak and groan under the strain of such fast-paced action, not having it included in the demo made the whole exercise entirely pointless and needlessly damaged momentum for the nostalgic release.
NBA ELITE 11
Released: 20 September 2010
Why It Backfired: ‘Jesus glitch’ led to game’s cancellation
When a demo for NBA Elite 11 bounced onto Xbox Live Marketplace and PSN Store, basketball fans were left unimpressed.
And that would have been it. The unexciting, not-at-all dramatic story of NBA Elite 11. Except for a video. One player recorded gameplay and captured the ‘Jesus glitch’ on camera, where LA Lakers player Andrew Bynum was frozen at mid-court with his arms wide open.
The video spread like wildfire and soon people were downloading the demo not because they wanted to see how good EA’s efforts were but to try and reproduce the glitch for themselves.
EA sprung into action and yanked the demo from Marketplace and PSN Store and just a week later, delayed the full retail release indefinitely. The timing was astonishing. EA killed NBA Elite 11 just eight days before it was due for release in the US.
We’ll never know how much sway the poor demo and glitch video had on this decision but we do know the series still hasn’t recovered. EA took time out and planned its comeback this year by going back to its previous brand with NBA Live 13 but that, too, has been cancelled.