GOOD MORNING: The return of the demo

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Michael Hutchins

Over the past few weeks, I've felt a bit nostalgia for my younger years as one of the long-lost practices in the video game industry saw a resurgence.

In late June, game developers released hundreds of demos of video games for users to test. This might seem like a simple gesture, but the practice has dwindled over the years.

For those who may have not read it in previous articles, I am something of a gamer and have been for most of my life. When I was a child, I can remember receiving and playing the demo or trial version of many video games prior to buying the full version.

Demo discs would commonly come with gaming magazines, bundled with other titles or simply offered for free on their own. As a gamer on a budget, it gave me a chance to test a game before I made the full purchase.

Over the years, the practice of releasing demos has diminished as the development process for many games has grown more complicated. It doesn't make sense to invest resources into something that won't make its way into the end product and doesn't have a return on its investment.

This changed a few weeks ago during the Electronic Entertainment Expo — an annual showcase of upcoming game releases and other gaming announcements. One of the developers announced that it would be showcasing demos hundreds of upcoming games on its digital platform — Steam.

Many of the demos that were available were from smaller, independent developers working on low-budget games. With a small team, taking the time off to exclusively make a demo can't be an easy prospect, yet hundreds of game developers did just that.

Demos still happen, but they are far more infrequent. With some highly-anticipated titles, the release of a demo is enough to grab people's attention.

As I played through several of the games — I only had time for a small handful — I felt myself taken back to when I was younger and playing through the same demo levels over and over again. Some demos got more play than flat out releases.

Many of the games that were highlighted were taking a gamble with something new, or perhaps a new concept that many of the larger developers would never consider. For these small projects, the publicity of a demo probably is the largest source of publicity they will get.

In my opinion the resurgence of demo copies of games can be what many smaller studios need to bring attention to ideas and projects that others might quietly fly under the radar for many gamers.