Google recently unveiled a new feature available in its Google Play Store, which allows gamers to play a small portion of a game without having to install it. No buying. No downloading. No sign-up. No emotional investment at all before giving it a try. You just tap the Play button and you're instantly playing the game. If you like it, you can tap Buy Now for the full experience.
I love the concept behind this. It gives developers a way to let you play a game, thus increasing its discoverability, while also giving players a way to test out a game, no strings attached, and I mean none.
Instant Play means no downloading, installation, sign-up, or anything
Here's how it works. When someone on an Android phone browses for new games in either the Google Play Games app or the Google Play Store, they can check out a bunch of recommended titles listed under Instant Play.
If you're on a supported device, you'll see a Play button, right in the game's summary page, even if you haven't downloaded it. You'll be able to play this demo version (length and content vary depending on the game) and then download the full game if you decide its worth your time and money.
Nothing is installed on your phone. It doesn't take any time to start playing the game. You don't have to sign up with Facebook or Google or your email address. You just play ... and then don't play if you don't want to. Done.
Game demos could increase discoverability and number of downloads
What's great about this is how easy it is for us to try out games without making any official decision. We're not downloading a free game, only to discover we don't like it and end up deleting it. We're not paying for a game, only to discover it's not our style. We're not downloading anything. It's just a demo and it has zero permanence in our lives until we choose to. This is not a free trial of anything. It's a completely unintrusive way to play a game before deciding if you want it. It's as if you're playing it on someone else's phone.
Google has also been doing this with Instant Apps for a while in a similar way. You can search for and use apps without having to install them in a demo.
Gaming, however, seems to be the perfect fit for this instant access feature Google has created. I'd love to see Apple do something similar in the App Store. There have been dozens of times when I've avoided buying a game because I wasn't sure I'd like it, and dozens of times I regretted purchasing a game I thought I'd like.
Even free games could benefit from a demo feature
Free games fit into this, too. A lot of people think of free games as some sort of ultimate money grab from greedy developers without even giving them a try. Sure, game companies do stand to make more money from people over the long run from small purchases over time versus a one-time purchase up front, but that doesn't mean the game isn't worth playing.
If you were able to demo free games before deciding to go through the effort of downloading and installing them, you might decide they are exactly the types of mobile game you want or realize they're not for you. You could install and continue playing or simply close the demo and move on without looking back.
Being able to play a game in demo form would give players a chance to experience how the mechanics work and whether the game is worth installing on our device. In my opinion, that's the singular most important reason to decide to buy a game and demoing them would make this so much easier for us.
Hoping for game demos in iOS 12
Setting up the process to demo games in the App Store might be a difficult task. Right now Google only has six games available in Instant Play. It might be time-consuming and costly to create game demos, which might limit how big the feature gets. I'd love to see game demos from my favorite indie developers, but it might not be that easy to do.
I'm hoping that Apple is keeping an eye on Google and working on plans to do something similar in the App Store someday. Maybe iOS 12?
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