Xbox Is About To Get A Ton Of Free Game Demos

Xbox Is About To Get A Ton Of Free Game Demos
Get a load of Sable's minimalist art. (Screenshot: Raw Fury)

From the ageing musical acts to the partnership deals with Earth-ruining capitalist empires, there’s a lot to tease about Summer Game Fest. One thing that’s unironically cool? The demo event, which allows Xbox players to play a ton of indie games for free. Following last year’s successful inaugural run, it’ll return next week. Microsoft announced the news in a blog post today.

Last summer, if you’ll recall, was awash in splashy press conferences. Without an E3 to coalesce around, it felt like publishers big and small hosted events on a weekly basis for months. It was…a lot. So, between the hubbub, it was lovely to take a breather with an event that not just shone the spotlight on smaller titles but also offered players the opportunity to play them, too. And a lot of those games were genuinely terrific. Of the more than 70 made available, some — Haven, Cake Bash, Raji: An Ancient Epic, Genesis Noir — have earned marks as true standouts from the past year.

Blessedly, this year’s event will feature 40 games. (As great as 70 is, a week’s just not enough time to play them all.) Xbox hasn’t unveiled the full list just yet, but did tease five today:

  • Sable, an open-world exploration game soundtracked by Michelle Zauner (whom you may know as Japanese Breakfast).
  • The Riftbreaker, a sci-fi base-building game about giant mechs, planned for a fall release.
  • Lake, a story-driven adventure game set in 1986 in an oceanside, wait, no, lakeside village.
  • Echo Generation, a turn-based adventure game with some delicious voxel art.
  • Tunic, which…tiny fox. That’s all you need to know.
All right, everybody go awww for Tunic. (Screenshot: Finji) All right, everybody go awww for Tunic. (Screenshot: Finji)

If this year’s event is anything like last year’s, it’ll be well worth carving out a spot in your schedule. Yes, yes, I know we’re all pumped about the Halos and Elden Rings. But this lighter fare tends to offer a mellower, often pensive countermeasure to the cortisol-raising spectacle you see with bigger publishers.

The Summer Game Fest Demo Event — that really doesn’t roll off the tongue, huh — will run from June 15 through June 21. Stay tuned for the full list of games, and for thoughts about which ones are most worth your time.

 

Comments

  • I love demos. I wishlist all kinds of crap on Steam that looks interesting to me from videos and screenshots, but I only click the ‘follow’ button for a notification when I’ve played a demo.

    I know developers have been pretty vocal about their mixed/negative feelings about them mostly because of that last part, but I’m glad to see the demo making a comeback. There must be something of merit there for the demo to be making a return these days.

    It’s actually a bit of a puzzle to me. In years past, I’ve read SO MUCH writing that I disagreed with from developers about how demos kill sales (famous example: https://www.puppygames.net/blog/?p=1394), backed up with all their data, such that all I could do was fold my arms and huff and say, “Well, maybe this stuff is true for all your other customers, but for me, demos only kill sales of bad games, and boost sales of good games, I’m special etc etc.”

    But they’re coming back, and I’m loving it! I wonder why they’re coming back. What changed?

    • If I had to take a stab in the dark I’d say Resident Evil’s bullshit demo restrictions got people talking about the concept of demos specifically and the games sold well, which is probably enough to nudge others over to the pro-demo side if they’ve forgotten why they abandoned them. All it takes is one genius at Microsoft in the right position to say ‘hey, Resident Evil pre-orders really spiked when that demo dropped, bully everyone into giving us demos!’ without investigating the why behind it all.

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