Sadly, this piece will not be about the album made by one of my favourite bands (one day, perhaps I will put something Gorillaz-related together!), but there is something similar between it and my topic of conversation today – they last came out in 2005 (or, near enough). The topic in question? Game demos.
Now that we’re in full swing into the period of gaming with patches, updates, live services, etc., it seems that the average consumer needs to take a gamble with more and more games based on reviews, previews, live streams, opinion pieces, and so on, without actually getting to try before they buy. With standard editions of games generally running from £50-£70 each, that’s quite a gamble, especially with how hectic launch windows can be. Should you pick up Cyberpunk 2077 or Assassins Creed Valhalla? Kirby and the Forgotten Land or Elden Ring? With the size and price of games nowadays, that can be tricky to answer.
So, when I heard about Sony is mandating that some of the game developers for the games on their platforms include demos/timed trial periods for subscribers to PS+ (the paid subscription that allows for users to play games online and get access to free monthly games), it brought me back to a time in gaming that I look fondly back on – the era of demo discs. My first console was an Xbox, and since I was still early through my education, I didn’t have disposable income to buy every major game. However, at the time, there were plenty of gaming magazines, which would normally come with the fabled demo disc. You could get home, put the disc into your console/PC and watch trailers for upcoming titles and fan-made clips and crazy stunts from games, but also play small chunks of the upcoming games, allowing you to get a taste of what they had to offer. I remember playing demos of games such as Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and Destroy All Humans! through these discs in particular, although I’m sure that I played many other demos through my time using them! This was a huge benefit for two main reasons – it allowed you to get a feel for whether you would enjoy certain upcoming games, but it also lets you whet your appetite until you got the full game since you could replay the demos as much as you wanted to for no extra cost.
I know that games back in that era didn’t have the same benefits as games do now – when you bought a game, that would be it. Patches, hotfixes, and updates were not a thing, so, understandably, having a playable trial version of games would have been crucial, but to me, it’s a shame that in the current era of gaming, demos have fallen to the wayside. I know that there have been exceptions, with playable demos such as PT, but I am very much for playable demos becoming a thing again. What I do hope is that they become more readily available for the average player, rather than locking it behind paid subscription services.
What are your thoughts on demo discs? Any fond memories from your times using them? Feel free to let me know in the comments, and I’ll catch you next time!