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Do you still remember the game demos? They’re coming back!



Video game demos used to be something very common. This ranged from the discs and floppy disks included in the magazines to the downloadable trial versions that could be played indefinitely. But when the digital age arrived, game demos began to disappear. Fortunately, this trend appears to be reversing.

Do you still remember the game demos? They’re coming back!

Early computer magazines typically featured floppy disks with demos. I still remember a Portuguese magazine called Spooler that featured various content created by readers, which was a real success. Later, PC magazines started using demo CDs, which could store much more data. In the early days of PlayStation 1 and 2 and the original Xbox, demo discs were a dime a dozen. You could find them on store shelves.

By placing a demo disc in your PC or console, you would receive snippets of levels from future video games, allowing you to try them out and see what you might want to play in the future.

Sometimes publishers even included demos of other games as bonus content in a full title. It was like a gateway into a game I would otherwise never play, with the guarantee that if I didn’t like it, there would be no sunk costs that would force me to keep playing.

Try before you buy

The loss of game demos has made it harder for players to get a feel for a game before it’s released. Of course there were the magazine previews, the gameplay trailers and (maybe) the game playthroughs. YouTube, but there is no substitute for playing the game yourself. Especially with the recent price increase on the current generation of consoles, being able to try a game before committing to 70 or more Euros is more important than ever.

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While some games have free trials that allow you to play for a set period of time at no additional cost, these are often locked behind paid subscriptions like PlayStation Plus. For a while, this was the main “try before you buy” method, as free demos were just relegated to the occasional indie game most of the time.

Video game demos in the modern digital age

With the PS3 and Xbox 360, the digital market and the more accessible distribution of video game demos emerged. You no longer need to go get a physical disc or spend money to try new ones. With just an Internet connection, you could download demos of hundreds of different games and try them out completely free of charge.

However, as this generation of consoles lost steam, so did the trend of playable demos. Demos became much less common around the time the PS4 and Xbox One launched, giving way to a greater focus on subscription services and online multiplayer.

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However, when browsing the PlayStation Store recently, a “Demos” section appeared. I clicked around a bit and saw demos like Resident Evil 4 VR Mode, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown and even Tekken 8. All of them are free to download and allow you to play a small part without any limits or time restrictions.

Many of these same demos are also available on Xbox and PC through Steam. Even the Nintendo Switch has its share of demos these days.

Now, even without a paid subscription service, a larger selection of developers have started releasing playable demos for free.

While it’s easier than ever to gauge your interest in an upcoming title these days, being able to try it out for yourself can open up new perspectives that could change your opinion about a future title.

If avid video game consumers want to stay at the forefront of the market, then we need to ensure that these demos are maintained. If there’s a game you’re vaguely interested in, see if it has a demo and try it out first. Keep the download statistics high and let’s hope this trend continues once again.

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