The Steam Review

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Do Free Weekends work?

Steam-only promotions probed :: December 4th, 2006 :: Events :: 13 Responses

Zeh Fernando’s Online Gaming Zeitgeist is hosting a partial analysis of Valve’s Free Week/Weekend promotions, using DOD: Source’s player-count statistics as a sample. Results indicate that they are making sizeable impressions–but as Zeh cautions, the extent to which increased popularity has translated into increased sales (as opposed to existing customers returning) isn’t known to anyone but Valve.

» Read the complete analysis and view the player-count graph

13 Responses to this post:


  1. Tom Edwards Says:

    I think this marks an occasion: it’s the first time I’ve been able to link to serious analytical work on Steam not done by myself! Great stuff, Zeh. 🙂

  2. Sarkie Says:

    My thoughts are they do work, for games that can’t have demos for whatever reason. I bought the The Ship because I found it enjoyable, bit gutted that there’s not that many players on it, but when there is, it is very enjoyable.

    I keep trying to get into Red:O.

    Good read though.

  3. RP Says:

    Really good article, and he explains well the thought behind the free weekends, but unfortunately we’re not able to tell if it’s really a success.

    From a player POV I only played the first DoD:S free weekend, but I must say that it was really great, although I owned the original HL I never played DoD, so being able to try the Source version was really good experience, and I’m sure that if I was a fan of WW2 MP games I would definitely buy it.

    I’m pretty sure that free weekends are probably the best way to give people the taste of MP games, when Q3 came out I tried the MP demo with only 4 maps and very few weapons, and wasn’t impressed. Only when I got to play the full version I realised how wrong my impression about the game was.

    IMO free weekends are a win-win situation, Valve or any other game developer are bringing the full game experience to a much bigger audience (while DoD:S usually average 5,000 players at max, during free weekends the players count topped 15,000) at pretty much 0 cost.
    And the players are able to test the full game for a few days and really get the feeling, and don’t have to wonder if “this is good/bad, but maybe the full game is much better/worse”.

    Conclusion: I’m all for free weekends, and please Valve, if you’re reading this do a free weekends of Race 😉

  4. poullos Says:

    I think they work. And that’s one of the big + steam has to promote its gamebase.

    Have you ever thought of a CSS free weekend. I know most people interested at first tried, but think about a grand free weekend CSS mayhem! :O

  5. Zeh Says:

    Thanks for the link and the additional info, Tom! It’s much appreciated. The free trials are a very interesting new trend. I even want to believe the decision to have a new RO free weekend was influenced by DoD’s success with it.

    RP; I totally agree with your point. For the player, free trials (when they occur) are so much much better for multiplayer games, it’s not even funny.

  6. Tom Edwards Says:

    It’s worth noting that the RO trials flooded the game with players trained in the arcade worlds of DOD and CS. That wasn’t great, and I image it would have been fairly rare for someone (who might perhaps enjoy the game otherwise) to get a good impression under those circumstances. Sarkie’s discovery that hardly anyone was playing The Ship after the weekend was over is another issue.

    Of course, DODS doesn’t have either of those problems.

  7. Sierra Says:

    I personally think they work, i bought Red Orchestra because of a free weekend, and im not the only one

    However at the same time the free weekends need to be co-ordinated well……we cant have a repeat of the last red orchestra free weekend where downloading the game during the week leading up to the trial was tedious due to the download speeds…..having issues just installing the game is enough to put people off buying the game, even if the issue had nothing to do with the game

    But as said, the free weekends are a win win situation,Valve have access to a market right at there door step, and the player has access to the full game and all the multiplayer maps, its not a demo. If people enjoy the game they will consider buying it. If people do not enjoy the game they dont have to spend a penny….and they will be grateful that there was a free weekend that stopped them splashing out cash on a game that they would end up hating

    Thanks for article!

  8. Sierra Says:

    Anyone who is a member of the steam forums should notice how few threads have been made on the topic of the free weekend… seems that not as many people are playing during this free weekend

  9. wizpig64 Says:

    Interview with Doug Lombardi on Valve’s partnership with IGA, and its decision to put ads in CS.

  10. Andy Simpson Says:

    Light news month, huh? I’m starting to miss TSR!

  11. Tom Edwards Says:

    Plenty of things have happened (not least this), but I’ve not had much to say about them. Certainly not enough to justify a post.

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