Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Free Demos On The Nintendo Store Feel Like An Exploit

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There are potential spoilers for the Nintendo store demo of the game, Harvestella, if you have not played the demo.

After purchasing a Nintendo Switch, possibly bundled with a game like Animal Crossing, players would likely be content playing that single game for awhile. After the novelty wears off, the game has been beaten, or if they need a break, the Nintendo store is the next stop to get their next obsession. However, issues with refunding – and games with problematic bugs and performances issues – can deter a user from purchasing a downloadable title/game from the Nintendo store.

Enter the game-play demo; allowing users to try a downloadable title before they buy. The game-play demo system most likely leans on the assumption that users would feel comfortable purchasing the full title if they enjoyed the game-play demo. However, the amount of game-play that’s given out in these demos feels like a bit of an exploit.

Refunding and return issues with the Nintendo store

Image of the US Nintendo store refunds policy, outlining the terms and conditions.

Refunding and returns via the Nintendo store seems to be somewhat unknown territory. When purchasing a downloadable title in some countries, the terms and conditions in the confirmation email list a process for refunds within 14 days. This isn’t native to the app, and users would need to complete a cancellation form and email that to the appropriate email. Nintendo’s customer support based in the US claims that they are unable to provide refunds or exchanges for a downloadable title.

After the release of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, players were disappointed when the awaited games suffered from performance issues and game-breaking bugs. Players trying to refund their copies reported mixed results after their attempts. With the history of difficulty refunding, the Nintendo store offering demos for their downloadable titles gives players a chance to try the game before they take a risk and purchase it.

Demos on the Nintendo store

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes promotional image from the Nintendo store with the label, 'Demo Available'.

Popular titles with downloadable demos on the Nintendo store include: Resident Evil 5 & 6, Little Nightmares 2, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, and the recently released Harvestella. The Resident Evil demo includes Chris Redfield as a playable character, and the demo content finishes after the opening chapter of the game. Resident Evil 6’s game-play demo includes the prelude, and finishes after Chris Redfield’s Chapter 1.

The Harvestella demo is basically a short game

Harvestella is equal parts RPG and farming simulator. The protagonist wakes up during an occurrence of Quietus, an interseasonal period that causes crop failure and a dangerous outdoor environment. Villagers do not dare to venture out during Quietus, and the protagonist cannot remember their life before waking up during this deathly season.

The Harvestella game-play demo ends after 15 in-game days, or at the end of Chapter 2. It begins with some exposition about Quietus and some of the game’s lore, then players are taken through a tutorial of the farming, crafting, foraging and hunting mechanics. Then, a meteor lands just on the border of Lethe village, and the protagonist is the only person brave enough to investigate when a door opens in the fallen rock. An Omen is found unconscious inside, and inside the strange armour is a girl named Aria.

Aria, an apparent time traveller, has disappeared to Higan Canyon to find answers as to how and why she ended up in this roughly medieval/middle ages time period. Through dungeon crawling, the protagonist progresses further and further every day through the same areas until they reach Higan Canyon where the end of Chapter 2 takes place. After a boss fight, Aria is saved and the demo concludes.

In itself, the Harvestella game-play demo contains an introduction, main story and conclusion. It isn’t the entire narrative of Harvestella, but gives the feeling of a story within a story. The demo isn’t just a showcase of the game and its inner workings, it almost stands on its own. A similar experience is felt when playing the demo for Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes and the Resident Evil demos. On my own console, the game library is mostly filled with game demos of what looked good when searching. After thoroughly enjoying each title’s demo, my attention span that jumps between games rarely felt the need to purchase the full title.

Images via the Nintendo eShop.

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