Pants Rants: Nintendo and Demos with Limited Uses

Contrary to those days of my youth where demo discs were pretty much my everything, I’ve only played two demos this year, and both of them were sour experiences. Not because of the content in those demos – Rayman Legends did a great job of showcasing the different gameplay features and the solid Wii U Gamepad integration, while the demo for the latest Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game was a nice look at a charming little story. What soured me were the bizarre limitations put in place on those demos.

When I got my Wii U, the (first) Rayman Legends demo was already up, and it was the first thing I downloaded on the console. I remembered playing it at the EB Expo last year and wanted to play it again – a good sign for someone who doesn’t rely on demos anymore. When it was done and downloaded I went to launch it and came across an odd message on the bottom of the demo tile.

Uses remaining: 30

It was pretty easy to guess what that meant. I could only launch the demo 30 times before it could not longer be used. Sure enough, when I returned to the Wii U dashboard after playing (and thoroughly enjoying) the demo, that number had changed to 29.

That afternoon I turned the console on again and was incredibly close to giving the demo another try. But I looked at that number and I just stopped. When I finished playing that number would go down to 28. That would be two of my allotted 30 uses gone in one day. When you think about it, if you’re really excited for a game you’re going to burn through those uses incredibly quickly. I needed to space them out a bit better.

I never touched that demo again.

That number instantly put a restriction on it that went against everything I had come to love about demos as a kid – that freedom to play it whenever I wanted, however many times I wanted. And in the end, that restriction turned me away from the demo entirely.

It made me overthink. Should I bother launching the demo now? I only want to play one or two levels. That’s probably just wasting one of my uses, I should save it for a day when I REALLY want to spend time with it. But I saved it for a time that never came, because I just kept asking those questions of myself. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the demo properly anymore, because of some forced limitations that I just couldn’t understand.

After Rayman Legends was delayed for half a year, Ubisoft tried to appease fans on the Wii U by releasing an exclusive second demo on the console, one that included all of the content of the first demo as well as competitive challenges that were updated daily. And best of all, it had no usage limit – probably as a result of those daily challenges, in fact.

But those limitations are still in place elsewhere and it’s a particularly strange restriction with something like the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon demo, which only lets you play to a certain point in the story anyway. Unlike the Rayman Legends demo, which is free form and lets you play levels over and over again each time you play it, the Mystery Dungeon demo is completely linear. What purpose does this restriction serve?

Something that hadn’t occurred to me initially is the fact that buying a used Nintendo console can lock you out of a demo if the original owner used up every play of a demo. You can argue that’s a risk to take with buying used consoles, but surely that’s going to strike most people as unfair.

Whatever the game the whole issue just leaves me confused in the end. The people who would play the Rayman Legends demo 30 times have to be the people who are most excited for the full version of the game, the people keeping themselves interested in the game through more than just hype – it’s something to do in the interim before the game’s release. They’re going to buy it, no doubt of that. Why deny them the chance to enjoy that content after a set time?

We’ve heard that the restriction is enforced by Nintendo but no clear reason seems to have ever been given. Perhaps demos have just changed since my childhood. Someone who uses up all 10 plays of the Mystery Dungeon demo must want the game, so when it hits zero the incentive to go out and buy the game proper is there in force. But when it comes to games that are months off from release, it’s a bit of a different story, and that’s where my problem lies with the whole thing.

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