30 Uses Remaining: Trust in the Age of Digital Distribution

As the 3DS comes up on the first anniversary of the machine’s North American release, the “third pillar” has hit a pretty good stride. With solid titles for the system, updates to Mii plaza and Nintendo Video, it seems as if the 3DS has something new to offer every time I open it up. In one key area, the 3DS is doing especially well: the eShop. Lots of classic titles are available, as well as video previews, and support for all kinds of experimental titles. But there is one aspect of the eShop that makes me feel a bit untrusted.

On demoes, what’s up with the 30 uses?

The number hangs over each demo in my system as if a death clock. That same itch that a completionist must feel when faced with a choice in an RPG tickles at the back of my head. My time with this demo is running out. With each try, I have to soak in the surroundings of the demo with an even greater attention to detail, an even slower pace.

How many times have you played a demo?

And yet, when I examined my entire life of gaming, I don’t think there has ever been a single demo I’ve played more than 10 times, with the exception of the many two-minute sessions of Tony Hawk, allotted to me by a disc in folded paper that came with an easily discarded magazine. In the interim, I have purchased several games from Mr. Hawk.

So, maybe I shouldn’t allow 30 uses to gnaw at me with such vigor. Yet, I can’t help but feel this is a portent of an even more restricted scape of the digital scene. I first felt the sickness occur when the Sonic Generations demo landed on my Playstation 3. Poor Sonic needs all the good will he can get, so why did this demo expire a week after being activated? What did Sega think I was going to do with it?

For one, it seems to show a serious distrust in what we, the audience are allowed to have. And two, it seems to show a serious distrust in their own product, that they feel we wouldn’t buy unless we lost access to a table scrap.

Digital Limitization is a proto-epidermal, a horrible skin on the pudding. As you peel back, you find there is another and another until all your pudding is nothing but skin.

The best situation with a trial demo would be to match that of the software world: every possible feature available to the user for a week. I can certainly understand why this might not work for a game, but what we’re left with seems to be the worst of both worlds. We can’t eat our cake, and we can’t even have it!

Demoes Are Ads

And at the heart of it, isn’t a demo just an advertisement? Imagine a world where pictures of jeans disappeared off a magazine or from your iPad with the initial intention of selling it to you. Imagine the usher in a theatre asking you to please avert your eyes, as you’ve reached your quota on viewing the new Batman trailer.

The digital world is one fraught with peril. We can certainly understand this point of view. But at the same time, don’t horde your digital wares in such a manner that we can smell your fear. It’s an advertisement. Trust us with your ad.