The X-Plane demo is a great example of how not to do a demo

After several failed attempts, I finally managed to get the X-Plane 9 demo installed on my PC. It survived about 12 minutes on my computer before I deleted it. The program (game?) looked great and I really wanted to spend some time with it but the experience was too frustrating for me to stick with it.

What did they do wrong?

  • First, their installer is a super-small download but it’s just a download manager that pulls the rest of the game from their website. This would normally be fine, except their download manager doesn’t support resume! Twice I killed it because I wanted to reboot my computer, not realizing that it was starting the 1.4GB+ download over from the top. If you’re gonna have a download manager, have a download manager. Otherwise I might as well just download a zip.
  • Dialogs pause the game and fill the screen almost at random with “buy this game” and “helpful hint” messages. It’s obnoxious. And in a flight sim, where the slightest movement can send your plane off course, it impedes your ability to control your aircraft. There’s no reason for these to pause the game or fill the screen, they could just as easily be little notification pop-ups in the corner.
  • The demo only lets you run the program for 10 minutes before locking you out. I’ve never played a flight sim that took less than 10 minutes to master. It usually takes hours. Instead of limiting you by time they should limit you in range or available aircraft.
  • There’s no guided experience. They simply drop you into an aircraft and tell you (literally), “brakes are b and throttle is F1/F2.” That’s hardly enough to get you familiar with what the game has to offer. They should take a page from FSX and have a series of in-game tutorials in their demo.
  • If you stray outside what the demo has downloaded there’s no obvious way to get back. It comes with these “scenarios” pre-installed but when I went to try them out I started getting errors about the terrain not being available. I wanted to go back to the original location they started me at but I couldn’t figure out how. When you’re trying to sell a product to a consumer you need to contain the experience to the best you have to offer.
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