Bethesda did a great thing last week by releasing a version of Prey that allows everybody (on consoles, at least) to play through the first hour as a free demo before they decide whether or not to buy the full game. Unlike some other questionable policies at Bethesda, I hope this is one that continues for all future games – and not just from this publisher, but from everybody. Sure, you can watch the first hour or more of a game you’re interested in on YouTube or Twitch, but that’s never as good as playing it yourself.
Offering a truncated version makes a lot of sense. One of the factors that contributed to the demise of the golden age of demos in the 2000s (during which Microsoft even required all Xbox Live Arcade games to have demos) was that developers didn’t want to take time out of development to create a demo version, which would often be a fork of the main game. By simply allowing people to play the first hour of the full game a week ahead of launch, after it’s been through certification, you might eliminate the majority of the need for separate development – and given that many games now allow you to start playing the early levels before they finish downloading the later ones, limited trials could be easier to implement than ever.