How long is too long for a demo?

How long would you like your demos to last? Enough to get a good sense of the game? Enough to leave you wanting more? How about long enough to actually complete it? That’s what one PSP game is offering. According to Famitsu (via Kotaku), the PSP’s version of Ragnarok, an online strategy RPG, the demo released by GungHo Online Entertainment lasted around 16 hours allowing the publication to see on of the many endings. And that’s why this model works for Ragnarok, because if people want to see the other ones they’d have to purchase the full game. If you fancy giving it a go, the demo can be downloaded here.

Technically, this can be considered a freemium model which may not be big on consoles, but is something that’ll have to be considered in the long run. The PSP has already had a freemium game and again it’s an RPG. Bakumatsu Revolution could be downloaded from PSN and then distributed among PSPs via wireless connectivity. A genius way of virally spreading your game inside a tight community and then charging for additional quests and loot thereafter. Sony seem more keen to adopt the freemium model than other platform holders and are even changing PlayStation Home to incorporate free-to-play games.

Microsoft initially appear less than on board with the freemium model. When Dungeon Fighter Online comes to XBLA, the current plan is that it won’t be the free-to-play version seen on PCs but a fully paid-for game. However, in June, several sources claimed Microsoft was collecting data and discussing the possibility to bring free-to-play games to the 360 where gamers exchanged MS Points for in-game items. Maybe Dungeon Fighter Online will stay a freemium game after all.

Nintendo is adamant that free-to-play games will not be a feature of their consoles. Time and time again Satoru Iwata has scoffed at the idea of this model so don’t expect to see any on the 3DS or Wii U which could make them less relevant to gamers in the near future. On the nearest supposed contender to Nintendo, the App Store, in-app purchases and free-to-play games account for 72 per cent of its revenue. Like it or not (and I don’t), the freemium model is very big business and a better way for console publishers to combat piracy and pre-owned sales than DRM or pre-order bonuses. It wouldn’t surprise me if the next generation of consoles focused on this type of gaming pushing us almost entirely into a digital distribution. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not

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Show me the way to go Home

Whether you think PlayStation Home is little more than an area for people to dance, decorate fake apartments and play ‘hunt the girl-gamer and chat her up’ (sadly I’ve witnessed all three on several occasions), Sony believe its been highly successful. To date, the other worldly realm of Home has 10million users though the definition of user hasn’t been clarified. The numbers could suggest a thriving community in Home or that a heck of a lot of people signed in once and never again. But hey, advertisers seem to love it and the 5,000 virtual items on sale in the fictional stores have all been profitable for Sony so yeah, in their eyes it’s definitely successful.

Microsoft has another, somewhat indifferent view: “It’s a nice chat room I guess, not an awful lot more,” Stephen McGill, UK marketing manager, told GamesIndustry.biz. “That’s not something that we’re looking at. I’m not sure what their learnings are from the Home experience.” I’m not sure of what can be learned from Home either. It may have game rooms (areas kitted out to resemble video games) thrown at it like there’s no tomorrow and shows that gamers will buy virtual merchandise but you could argue that both of these are already part of the Xbox 360 experience. Premium themes can be likened to game rooms – though without the walking around – and the Avatar marketplace is chocked full of stuff for your little man or lady. So it’s no wonder Microsoft see little value in Home. Neil Thompson, general manager of Xbox UK and Ireland adds: “The honest answer is that, online we’re following our own agenda. It’s been pretty successful for us over the last four or five years. We’re focusing on what we think we can drive and that’s where our energies are going to go.”

It needs to be said that such responses weren’t done in a spiteful manor. Even if Microsoft think little of Home, the fact is that it does generate a healthy amount of cash. And Home does have some cool features now and again too. Like how Sony’s stand at this year’s E3 was replicated in Home for PS3 patrons to peruse at their leisure, without the need for any plane ticket or hotel room of any sort. It wouldn’t work for the Xbox 360 to receive and all out copy of Home but if the online space really does begin to pick up speed in the near future, it would be interesting to see what Microsoft does in return.

Going home this week, FFXIII among others

Final Fantasy XIII - Snow and his interesting bike...

This Friday 13th looks to stick two fingers firmly up to tradition and be rather lucky for us gaming folk. First Nintendo will be releasing a demo for one of their popular franchises and now Sony are extending the hands of kindness in PlayStation Home. First, the 10-Screen cinema within Sony’s virtual land will be showing the first full episode from series two of anime, Fullmetal Alchemist. Airing actually begins today but only lasts for seven days so stop your dancing and head over to the cinema for that one! Next up Ubisoft are giving away virtual items to celebrate the upcoming release of Assassin’s Creed II and AC Bloodlines on PSP. Expect to see hats, shirts, hoodies and more in Home’s mall this week. But the juiciest treat comes from Square Enix who are playing a brand new never-before-seen trailer for Final Fantasy XIII in the 10 Screen cinema from tomorrow! No details have been given away as to what the trailer will show but so far, all the others have been great and don’t see why this would be any different. So dust off your avatar, there’s finally a decent use for Home- reaping the rewards of marketing!