Part of The Stanley Parable's success can be attributed to the game's demo, which pulled in between 150,000 to 200,000 downloads according to developer Galactic Cafe's blog.
In a post detailing the title's postmortem, the team wrote that the demo, which was streamed in many "let's play" videos and received a large amount of press attention, was "written in the background" during the main game's development. It contained pieces of the game but didn't give away any of the final version's secrets. Instead, the developer aimed to make it a tease, but one just as engaging as the main game.
"Essentially we got the press equivalent of two video game launches," reads the post. "And we cheated, since we re-purposed most of the assets that we were using for the main game. All that it took was a creative remix of those resources and press outlets, YouTubers and people all over social media were eager to talk about it.
"We spent two years making The Stanley Parable," according to the post. "For an extra two months work, we get an entire second game's worth of press. That seems like too good a deal to risk going without."
The post also notes that of the five trailers Galactic Cafe released for The Stanley Parable, "not one of them contains any substantial actual footage of the game."
"If you make the marketing material interesting on its own, it's irrelevant whether it 'sells' your game," the team wrote. "Our focus was always on creating content that was on its own fun for people to experience and to be a part of, with essentially zero percent of the design aimed at trying to get the game to sell."
Galactic Cafe believes launching a quality, popular demo not only helped them mitigate strained emotions during post-launch, but it was also the key factor in the game's marketing. The team wanted the bits and pieces of the game discussed in the media to speak for themselves and inspire their potential audience to start talking about the game.
"The focus from the game itself to the supporting media was always the same: make this something that people will want to talk about," the post reads. "Each one had to be unique, had to have its own thought put into it, as though we were releasing it purely on its own. In doing so, we were able to get away with saying nothing about the main game because by the time the main game actually launched, the name itself was on a lot of peoples' minds."
Check out Polygon's review of The Stanley Parable here.