Poor old Metroid Prime: Federation Force - following its bizarre and poorly received E3 2015 reveal it's been kept largely out of the spotlight, only emerging in the past week with Nintendo opening the doors for previews and, somewhat surprisingly, releasing Metroid Prime: Blast Ball for free. Essentially a bonus / training mode in the core game, this 3 vs. 3 shooter / sports minigame landed on the eShop recently as a first taste of sorts for the main game. With the download featuring the full suite of options - single player vs. bots, local and online multiplayer - it lets 3DS owners try out the core controls of Federation Force in a chaotic team-based setting.
As we began to argue in a recent poll article, the release of Blast Ball is a scenario from which Nintendo arguably can't lose. In terms of public perception and visible online feedback the game has faced consistent negativity, with even the most recent 'Mission Briefing' video earning almost as many dislikes as likes on YouTube.
Ultimately, for some Nintendo fans Federation Force is a game that will never earn acceptance - it adopts the much-loved Prime brand and utilises it in a team-based 3DS shooter, with a visual style that's not exactly universally loved. There's also the very obvious factor that Samus isn't front and centre as the protagonist, which seems like a risky move wherever you stand on the pros and cons of the game. Like with a handful of other releases of note in the past couple of years, including the likes of Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival, some dedicated fans of major franchises - not entirely without justification - are rebelling against the games they're being offered.
Whatever your thoughts on mass-dislikes and negative social media reception for games like Federation Force, sometimes those are circumstances that can't be escaped. The Blast Ball download - essentially a free gift in Europe and a limited time early access trial in North America - is a clever counterpoint, then. Some won't be convinced to download it, or will try it and be unmoved by its gameplay, but it's also possible that some will try it out and be swayed.
Certainly a decent percentage of those replying to our polls said they were enjoying the free demo to some degree, and a solid number stated that early access and free downloads can help sway opinions on upcoming releases. Blast Ball, a part of a release struggling for acceptance among vocal online fans, in particular, went straight for the sizeable 3DS userbase and said "here, try it out for yourself".
Another example we've cited before is the the Splatoon Global Testfire, a small series of time-limited online sessions in which fans got rather excited and eagerly joined in, while giving Nintendo useful stress tests for its servers. After a couple of wobbles the servers found their footing, and this writer recalls a lot of positivity around the promotion. Splatoon already had a positive pre-release reputation, but as a new IP it no doubt helped to get the free online demo onto the systems of as many Wii U owners as possible. Those unsure of spending out on an unfamiliar franchise could get drawn in by its charms ahead of time, tempting them to buy into the full experience.
Free and early access downloads certainly have value, then, though certainly that's only applicable in certain circumstances. New IPs or titles that need a boost in public perception are perfect for the approach, as it's all about growing the audience with newcomers that otherwise may not have even been close to a purchase. There's less value for small experiences or established franchises, which explains why demos and freebies are rare with Nintendo's biggest hits in particular. There's also the perspective that demos don't help sales if they give too much away - small download-only games, for example, are in danger of showing their hand too fully in free downloads, taking away the incentive to buy the full offering. With big-name franchises like Mario, on the flipside, there's no need to give anything away, as Nintendo can rely on brand power and conventional marketing hype to do the job.
These free downloads are also only worth delivering if the product is good enough. Lost Reavers - which is free-to-play anyway - had an early access download, but that wasn't particularly well received courtesy of issues with controls, lag and general design. Those negative impressions can be enough to put potentially buyers - including this writer in this case - from bothering with the final product. If a game is of sketchy quality, freebies aren't a good idea.
Sometimes opportunities are missed, too. Star Fox Zero is a title which had a continual debate around its controls follow it up to release and beyond. Yet long after it arrived Nintendo released a demo that included the Training Missions and the 'Battle Begins' animated short. The animation was well received before the game, so if it had been distributed with that demo prior to the game's full release, even right after it was broadcast in a special online event, that may have been useful in tackling perceptions around controls. The way Zero plays is divisive, but at least this demo would have allowed those on the fence to decide for themselves one way or the other; hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course.
In any case, it wouldn't surprise us if free downloads like Blast Ball and the former Splatoon Global Testfire become increasingly common from Nintendo, especially for new IPs or games that need a boost of profile. More people are now talking about Metroid Prime: Federation Force courtesy of Blast Ball landing, and at this stage and with current perceptions around the game that's only a good thing.
With the exceptional amount of content and competition in gaming nowadays, some titles need help to make any kind of impact. Freebies aren't always the answer, nor will the strategy always pay off, but it's another useful weapon in this increasingly download-centric gaming age. As we've seen with various and similar approaches across PC and other consoles, generating buzz and word of mouth through trials, partial releases and limited early access downloads can be hugely effective in getting games into the gaming public's conversation.
It all boils down to one simple fact - people like free stuff. Sometimes you have to offer a freebie to loosen a gamer's purse-strings.
Demos, basically, have made sense since the days of shareware (as long as you've got a decent game worth demoing in the first place, obviously). For example, releasing the original Doom as shareware initially was a master stroke of genius. It's just strange that Nintendo is still trying to figure this out.
If a demo can show me how wonderful a game is, that's great. I just question if this Metroid only online FPS really belongs on the 3DS? Triforce Heroes didn't work for this reason and I wonder if they really belong on a console instead?
Zelda: Breath of the Wild? That demo exists, yet only the privileged few have been allowed to play it.
@Kirk On average demos hurt sales, which is the type of information multi-billion yen corporations possess and act upon. Nintendo clearly believes that Federation Force will not be the average situation.
@SLIGEACH_EIRE That demo exists for a different reason, not to drive sales. Apples and oranges. Apples and orange sherbet, actually.
The Federation Force training mode is fun, but Blast Ball is more frustrating than entertaining. It feels like pure luck.
I mean, sometimes, It makes sense.
In the case of federation force. playing the Blast Ball demo has just reassured me that I do not want to touch this game with a bargepole.
@MrGawain From what I can gather, the game is for the 3DS instead of the Wii U mostly because Next Level Games has experience on the 3DS making Luigi's Mansion 2 and console development already takes a load of extra time and resources. Meaning by the time a Wii U version was released, it'd be 2017 or so.
I suppose this game should be for consoles, but they likely couldn't do so without waiting for NX specs to be finalized, which would have been ages. I'd have rather they worked on Mario Strikers 3D or something, but whatever.
So if this game were to be on wii u and come out about the smae time as the planed 3DS release that would help fill a empty hole in Nintendo's releases for this year because paper mario isn't gonna cut it
Free too play games is cool and demos are good too see if you like a game or not or get use too controls etc but sometimes they can be misleading tho.
The Blast Ball Demo got deleted pretty quickly for me. A simple feature like inverting the Y-axis isn't present and made my learning cure nigh impossible. And by the time I finally got used to it, I was over the whole thing. If the campaign is any good, I still MIGHT do it. Might...
Free to play games aren't really my thing as those understandibly want to earn their money through in-game purchases. I'd much rather give them the money they want when downloading it and don't get asked to give them mones every few minutes. I have nothing against paid DLC as long as the core game is coherent and fun to play even without purchasing said DLC content.
In regards to demos, I view them mostly as early access to a game, a sneak peek if you will. None that I have ever played have influenced by purchasing decision. Most likely because I only download demos to games I already know I wanna buy on launch date. However, I think demos in general give people a taste of what's to come in the full experience in a good and a bad way: Sure, some people buy a game because the demo made them sure of their purchase. However, there might very well be those who wanted to buy a game but got turned down by playing the demo, effectively canceling the money a company would have received from these people.
Anyway, still haven't downloaded Blast Ball and I have no interest in doing so whatsoever.
I gave Blast Ball a try, and I found it to be as disappointing as I expected. Sometimes, demos can make me fall in love with a game that I otherwise would have overlooked, but not in this case.
I enjoyed what I played, but the game really cramped up my hands... Holding all the triggers for precise shots while shooting and walking felt uncomfortable. The matches that I played were fun though.
demos help a lot, especially with the 3ds. there is always a worry about a game not looking up to snuff on what really isn't all that great a screen, even with the much improved 3d effect.
@PanurgeJr I'm sure on average it hurts the sale of average games.
Guess they learned from the failure of Star Fox Zero
I feel as if blast ball can give people the wrong impression of federation force. I still really enjoy it though.
Now that the demo is out, what do people think of Blast Ball? (I guess I should download it myself, but I'm interested to know whether there's any consensus on it, either way.)
@Kirk Remember when shareware games were sold in the store and came in their own boxes? I remember K-Mart having a shelf of them for a buck each.
I really enjoyed Rayman Legends demo and waited patiently to purchase the game and then got a bazooka to the face due to them holding out on us to release it on the added consoles. That pissed me off and I ended up not purchasing the game anyway.
@Dr_Corndog I'm from the UK and I don't remember that.
In the UK we used to get demo discs with magazines. PS1 and Dreamcast had a lot of them. Nintendo missed out because they stuck with carts which were too expensive to do it on.
Sorta died out with the ps2/gamecube gen when downloadable demos replaced them.
I've said it before and I'll say it again:
... is what Reggie said back when the game was announced, to sucktacular backlash.
And then I said, in that very article's comment section:
"You want us to give the game a chance? Release a demo on the eShop."
It's very easy to say "give our game a chance" without giving players the chance to play a brief sample of said game (I've chosen my words as such for the sake of juxtaposition). It's very easy indeed, and also unfair. Thing is, when Super Mario 3D World was announced, a demo - even in the wake of the Wii U's initial software drought, and I really mean "drought" - we already knew it would be awesome, so the lack of demos, while slightly unwelcome, at least made some amount of sense.
Games such as Federation Force are all "please don't suck" scenarios where gamers, while saying the game will be bad, also want to be wrong. And the best way to be wrong is to be PROVEN wrong. That's the main reason behind demos.
I get that not releasing a demo is a "if you want to try it, buy the whole game" kind of deal, but it's also outright unfair to consumers. Companies don't release demos, and players are forced to do a leap of faith. While players with a demo can choose not to buy a game, the opposite can also happen, reinforcing their hype. I know this comports a risk, but it's a risk that game companies - especially Nintendo and their obsolete approach to demos - have to start taking.
And what happens when games are released without giving players the chance to play demos beforehand? This.
While a demo wouldn't have helped sales, it would have saved Nintendo the embarassment of seeing so many used copies of Star Fox Zero.
Does my reasoning make sense to anyone or am I just rambling?
@Kirk I'm not sure how long they were available in stores over here, either. My dad would also get these catalogs full of shareware games, and I loved looking through those.
Blast Ball plays and controls almost as bad as Starfox Zero, Nintendo is really dropping the Ball! lol
@Dr_Corndog I imagine they were pretty cool fun. I probably did see them at some point. I just don't recall seeing them right now. I mean, I remember demo CDs on the covers of magazines sometimes, in the early PlayStation days and that kind of thing, but that was about it. Or is that the kind of thing you're talking about.
@Linkstrikesback Yeah, I remember those. Those were cool.
@AlexSora89 Totally makes sense to me.
I am interested in Federation Force but I'm not so interested in Blast Ball it would have been a lot better to have received a demo of Federation Force.
@Kirk No, I'm talking about 3.5-inch floppies. I definitely remember demo fisks, though.
I quite liked the Blastball Demo that they released but the real issue isn't that it is poorly made or is lacking character, it is just not the Metroid game fans want after such a long hiatus. It will almost certainly be a solid game but I am starting to wonder when we will finally get a proper game in the series because it has been far too long. That being said I will be keeping my eye on this one but it definitely isn't at the top of my priority list.
So far I've had fun with Blast Ball. But I'm not a rabid with rabies Metroid Fan either
@Dr_Corndog I used to buy shareware off a spinner rack at the grocery store. They came in little plastic packs where the front would swing down. I live in the Dallas area, so I picked up full Wolfenstein directly from Apogee, and full Doom from id. id wasn't really cool with it and they changed their policy to no customers allowed. True story.
@Ras Hah, that's great. Except for id kicking customers out of their place.
Never really interested in bast ball, but federation force itself looks great!
"people like free stuff"
Free or not, a crap game is crap. Splatoon testfire did great because Splatoon is great. Silly comparison.
I've cooled down a LOT since last E3 over the game's reveal. This very generous gift further swayed me into giving it a chance.
I still have lots of demoes installed in my WiiU and 3ds. I sometimes even play them. There are some of them that made me absolutely buy the game, like The Wonderful 101 or Bayonetta 2. The thing for me is that a demo can make me want to buy the game the moment I play it, because I really feel it works for me. It's like a test, in the end. For example I would really like to have a Xenoblade X demo because I'm still not sure I would like that game, there are more reasons to not got it, but a good demo could change my mind, even just making me try the combat system. Other demo versions, especially for cheaper e-shop only games made me buy the full game, I remember Trine 2, for example, and others. In this case I don't know... Blast ball is better and more fun than I expected, but I'ts not like it is giving me a taste of Federation Force. Gameplay videos make me think of a more action and less exploration focused game and the worst parts In Metroid Prime games are, for me, the action sequences.
You know, I think I've really come to understand why people are upset with Federation Force.
Recently, I've been playing through Paper Mario TTYD. I've come to realize that, while Color Splash might end up being a fun game, Nintendo has made it clear that they aren't planning to ever make a TTYD-style Paper Mario sequel. And TTYD is such a great game. So knowing that future Paper Mario games will never have the same magic that TTYD has makes me sad, regardless of how good Color Splash ends up being.
I think it's the same with Metroid Prime fans. I assume the Metroid Prime trilogy was something special. Something fans hold dear to their hearts. And Nintendo, in a similar fashion to Paper Mario, is signalling that they aren't going to make a Metroid Prime game that has the same magic as the trilogy, so even if Federation Force is good, it can't replace that Samus-shaped hole in fans' hearts.
Or something. I mean, the Metroid series still has hope for future titles, while the Paper Mario series has a bleak future. But I think, in general, the reactions to Federation Force and Color Splash are similar in more ways than you might think.
@Dr_Corndog Yeah, I never really played on computers to much back in the day, so I don't really recall this. My mate did though, so he probably got the floppies with the demos all the time.
@Ricube: Yes, Bayonetta 2's epic demo turned me 180 degrees on that upcoming release (thankfully)! (And I do still play the demo once in awhile)
On the flip side, I really did not like the Sonic Racing demo at all. Very limited. Turns out, I loved the game (and it got me ready for MK8). Not surprising, because I enjoy racers.
Demos are really important for new games with new concepts. Game makers should not shy away from giving the public a taste of their vision. If the concept resonates, we will buy.
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