A demo has the power to grant a game a larger audience than simply releasing teaser images and videos.
A demo holds this potential solely on the ability to get your hands on the “game” to test the waters of a player’s interest. This is also obvious with Alpha and Beta builds of game and early access. It grants the freedom to try before you by, kinda like how we would rent games from Blockbuster to see if we would even need to ask our parents to buy it for Christmas. That or, you know just to beat the game in a week without having to spend the full $50-60 for it.
Devs know this, which is why free demos have been a staple for many companies as far back as the Playstation (at least to my knowledge anyway). Getting discs from a magazine that let you play the latest releases, learning the controls, and figuring out just which things to omit when asking an adult for it. Over time, this concept evolved from demos of games that already released to games that don’t touch shelves for a couple of months, in many ways to just get feedback, like alphas and betas do to test the limits of their games, to giving those current fans a little something to chew on for the interim.
But the developers never forgot the expanded reach they had when placing a demo on the Playstation Store, Xbox Live, or Steam. They knew that for everyone who was still on the fence, this was their chance to try it and get another sale/fan for a franchise. So it’s safe to say that Sega had the basics in mind when they dropped their demo of Yakuza 6: The Song Of Life on the PS Store.
However, what they didn’t plan for the full game to slide onto digital shelves a little over 2 months early.
The Unknown Factors
When the guys over at Sega dropped the demo for everyone to try out, they probably didn’t expect to get as much attention as they currently have. In the U.S., the Playstation store demo download size was a bit larger than any normal demo has been, which had plenty of people buzzing. Not fully understanding what to make of it, a few extra gaming outlets and gamers had their eyes on the demo, bringing it some added attention.
While that is all well and good, having so many people download the demo in North America would potentially boost future sales, and if the series decided to continue (if it hasn’t already in Japan) then support for the franchise would grow as well. While playing around in the demo, myself included, realized very soon something was amiss.
When I entered the first town, a trophy popped up on my account. Instantly I had to make sure it wasn’t some random notification, or a glitch in the system. Everybody knows demos don’t allow trophies, they have a specific cut off point, and make it almost impossible go outside preset boundaries. Sure enough, it was a trophy, one that hadn’t had the data stored online the Playstation network, but I could view offline.
I kept pushing after that, trying to experience everything I could from the game. Because moments before I had finished downloading the demo, there were already posts all over the internet talking about how the North American release was the full game by accident. Sega pulled the demo from the store, but I randomly still had the demo available to play.
Safe to say I pushed myself further into the game than I would have normally been allowed. Granted it was mostly trophy collecting and reaching Chapter 2 before having the license removed from my console.
But the whole game being released as just an accident seems a bit odd for my taste, I at first thought it was a well crafted stunt, meant to garner more attention, then would allow players to get into at least 3 chapters before cutting them off and saving the data for the full release. Yet it being centered only in the U.S. made it even more unlikely as a marketing ploy.
In some ways though, this accident has to be the best way to promote Yakuza 6, it placed the company and the game in the news, it had the words Yakuza coming from people who had never touched the games before now (I’m apart of that group). Giving an extended taste of the game itself, losing the boundaries that typically keep gamers locked in one section of a title acts as a tease, pushing you to want to play more and more.
Many of the subreddit threads I found about this issues mentioned players playing as much of the game as they could before the license was removed. As if stoking the fire of interest, getting people further ahead, so that way when they get their hands on a copy, they would already have a head start. It could also be seen as people didn’t want to spend the money on the game so they wanted to beat it as fast as they could, but I’d rather focus on the advertising potential this had, while the other thought process maybe just as viable.
Just like every major gaming title, certain demographics will not be attracted to Yakuza for the sake of it being subtitled, being filled with more Japanese-esque humor, and I know for a fact that some of the exposition is just hard to slog through when all you want to do is play a game. Sometimes you feel like you’re playing a Metal Gear Solid game with as many cutscenes that you have to watch within the first 10-15 minutes of the demo.
It was even said in an interview with series creator, Toshihiro Nagosh, back in 2016 that the fan base in the west was improving but still needed to find a way to gain some more of that audience. I mean we are part of the group he mentioned, maybe it being fully released early wasn’t so much of an accident as it was a well planned bid to get more people interested in looking at the Yakuza series.
It worked for me, I’ve never touched a single game, and after playing the demo, I’m already in the planning stages to pick up the franchise where I can. I know I will not be able to go so easily in order but I am now wholly interested in this delightfully odd title.
So Kudos to Sega, whether this was truly an accident or planned all along, you got someone else supporting you now, so maybe it wasn’t a whole horde of gamers, but one more than before is still more than you had I suppose.
I’ll definitely be interested in checking out the sales figures when Yakuza 6 The Song of Life drops for us on April 17