As someone who is not naturally great at FPS games, I wasn’t sure what to make of Overwatch. First, as an AAA release, its price point is pretty steep. Added to the game expense is the PlayStation Plus subscription that Sony console users like myself have to maintain in order to access most multiplayer content.
I have a backlog of games I’m forever trying to find the time to play already; adding another one to the list, one which I might not be good at, was a proposition that had me torn.
Fortunately, in a feat of excellent strategic marketing, Blizzard made Overwatch free to play for console users from September 9th to the 12th. I took advantage and over that weekend discovered I actually really enjoy Overwatch. I especially appreciated the AI battle mode that meant I got to hone my skills and not completely tank my stats in the process.
And for the record, I’m great as Road Hog and wish I were better at literally every other character.
The free play event allowed me to get a taste of something without a financial commitment. If I hadn’t enjoyed Overwatch, or if I hadn’t been good at it, I would have still been grateful for the chance to find that out without spending $60.00. (They don’t typically give refunds because you didn’t like something, much to the dismay of many No Man’s Sky players.) And personally, I’m always inclined think kindly of those who give me gifts. Blizzard definitely would have gained brownie points even if I’d found Overwatch to be a dud.
But now that I’ve had a few days with Overwatch at no cost to me, I’ve determined purchasing the game is very much worth it. I doubt I would have come to the same conclusion if I hadn’t been able to play the game for free or at length.
Often, you really do need a few days to get the hang of a game, especially a multiplayer game or something open-world. If I’d gone over to a friend’s house and played Overwatch for an hour or two, it wouldn’t have been enough exposure to tip the scales into a definite purchase for me. Having a few days to get the hang of it in the comfort of my own living room was ideal.
I’m left wondering why more AAA releases don’t take advantage of free play weekends. Sure, a lot of games do offer them—many of them on Steam, and some on console—but they’re not always the type of games I think would benefit from this tactic. I’m not lining up to play UFC 2, for example, which recently had a free play weekend, but I would like a few days with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (on my maybe list), DOOM (ditto), Battleborn—the list goes on.
While some of the FPS multiplayer games released this year and next may very well offer trial play, the majority won’t. And I think that’s an oversight. Even if I discovered that I dislike DOOM, I would do so without sinking money into it and then potentially venting to friends, or leaving a bad review, or writing something here at remeshed about its faults.
For gamers, it’s a win-win. The other options for trying out games have their various issues: while there are rental services, rental kiosks don’t have the most comprehensive selection (and the fees add up if you don’t finish the game within a day or two), and subscription services can be steep. Free play is an ingenious solution that any gamer can afford.
For developers and distributors, I think it may be a win-win as well. The potential exposure is vast; press will do a lot of the marketing for you if you announce a free play weekend; a not insignificant portion of those who try out the game will buy it; and the gamers who try the game but end up not purchasing it are probably less likely to go on scathing tirades because they didn’t have to spend their own money.
I hope other companies follow Blizzard’s lead and put their popular multiplayer games up for free trials. And it’s not just for my benefit—what company couldn’t use a little good PR these days?