Free chapters and downloader reviews


Recently (after the release of Starship Adventures) I’ve spent some time thinking about how the free chapters at the beginning of the game affect downloader reviews. Often I’ve come across some reviews which say something along the line of “free content too short, probably hides poor/short/bad/etc game”. Clearly bad reviews can really affect buyers, as can poorly drafter starting chapters.

Any thoughts on how long/branched to make these free chapters? (Obviously I’m aware that every story is different etc etc, I’m basically wanting to start a discussion focuses on game design concepts and ideas). Also, for those who’ve already published, any feedback on how these are determined? (Like is it automatically the first two or three chapters? Does author get to decide?)


Could be better to put in a teaser line or something?


On Steam I thought you can only read the teaser content of you download the clearly marked “demo” version, am I wrong?


The teaser will only show in the store on the store page; for the demo or the full game. The “Demo” on Steam is the free chapters showcased here and on the app store pages.

@adrao - I can’t answer the logistics; sorry.


I know I’ve often looked at the free sample of a book on Amazon only to find they only included the table of contents or even less. Always makes me wonder what they’re hiding. For non-fiction I could understand that, but for fiction, if the book’s well-paced, then in theory, you should be able to let people read even half the story. Those who like the story will still want to buy, those who don’t like it won’t buy anyway (and you haven’t lost anything), and you just might convince a few people who were on the fence. Since you’re delivering infinitely copiable digital goods, not brownie samples, you can give away a bigger piece for basically the same price, and you’re not wasting “material” on people who don’t buy. I’m sure you know of self-published authors who give the first ebook in their trilogy away free, openly stating that they hope people like it and will pay to read the next two books.

Since CoG stories usually start with building your character and introducing NPCs, the first few chapters might seem slow, and few of the decisions will pay off yet. I know for most CoG demos, I’ve come to the end of the free content and said, meh, maybe it gets more engrossing, but I haven’t seen anything that would make me pay to find out. It might be beneficial to “give” more of the book away, so readers have a chance to get invested in the characters and outcomes, and be more willing to pay to find out what happens next.

Or, that could backfire, and the complainers will react violently to having gotten so far into the story then be asked to pay (even though they were warned).

It does seem unfair that people who haven’t bought the full version as IAP can still leave a rating and review. Preventing that would require a big change in sales model, though.


I see a lot of that already.


@RETowers: On the other hand, if the complainers are already going to complain whether it’s three free chapters or ten… then might as well give the fence-sitters more to go on.



On the other hand, if the complainers are already going to complain
whether it’s three free chapters or ten… then might as well give the
fence-sitters more to go on.

True but people WILL complain if you give them 80% of the book and then charge them the full book price for the last couple of chapters. Sure the book might have been 100,000 words in total and it’s still going to be that long whether the cut off is 20% of the way or 80% however the perceived value of the latter is less since many people will feel cheated for having to pay for what they see as a small amount rather than viewing the product as a whole purchase.

So the placement of the demo point really is important. Too little and people wont buy it due to lack of interest or suspicion that the short length is hiding a poor story. Too long and complaints will arise about the above or just because they’ve become immersed without planing to actually buy it only to be cut off.


I think your discounting the effect of the actual rating of a game in stores has. Anything that encourages people who are never going to purchase to leave a one star out of spite is a negative. It’s a lot of factors in play.


So is the “free demo and pay for the rest” the best business model for CoG on these platforms? We’ve all seen plenty of “this app isn’t really free! you lied!” 1-star reviews out there, and doubtless will do for just about every game that’s a “free” app with 80-90% of the story as an IAP.

How sure are we that CoG hooks more customers by providing the free demo (and providing it specifically via the app stores, not just via a browser to the CoG website) than we lose by the accumulated effect of the “not actually free” 1-star brigade?

Just curious. :slight_smile:


I do no, but one or two chapter for story good length to determine if story worth buy or not.

Peoplez will still give 1star rate if they have really zero intention of buying game and they expect to getting free game. Players who want free game yet game already make warning that player need pay will still find ways to whine and whine and whine and whine.

Complains like that should not be minded, they blood suckers, I see app stores have free games that clear say you need pay for full game yet see whine, whine and whine of others complain game no free. As long as they download it they can review it, it the appz store rule thing I think.


The overall comparison of different monetization strategy is not what I’m talking about. I’m just talking about the different between longer demos and shorter ones. Between things that might encourage few one off purchases (i.e. a large demo) and something that increases (or fails to decrease) the overall perception of value (i.e. a higher rating in the stores), I’m inclined to say the later is a better choice (both in larger scope, and in the individual game). While @Jacic points out perceived value, I’m also inclined to wonder if a large part of it is the sunk cost fallacy for individuals that went in knowing they aren’t going to purchase.

As for demos in general, I’m inclined to say that they are a necessity for most Hosted Games because of the large number of authors that post under the label, and that the average consumer very likely does not understand the difference between CoG and HG.