Remember demo discs? They used to be circular portals to new gaming experiences, shaping our knowledge of upcoming releases and hidden gems. Sadly, demo discs have become somewhat obsolete, especially since game demos can now be simply downloaded from the internet.
While technology has indeed evolved, our gaming habits haven’t. Many of us still want to dive into games without any sort of commitment. Game demos are also few and far between these days, which means you’ll often have to buy before you try. Well, at least that was the case until Xbox Game Pass came along. Yes, Game Pass is filled with full versions of games rather than demos. However, the service inadvertently facilitates the same things as a classic demo disc, making it a perfect substitute.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: how is a demo disc anything like Xbox Game Pass? Well, it’s more or less down to how you use the service. If you’re the type of player that carefully selects their next game, then sees it through to the end, then Game Pass is more or less just a Netflix for gaming. However, if you like to game on a whim, throwing suggestions at the wall to see what sticks, then the experience is essentially an uncanny demo disc.
It’s worth mentioning that Xbox Game Pass is more than just a demo disc in every sense. Microsoft’s subscription service is only marginally more expensive than a gaming magazine and offers much more than just a free demo disc. Yet, at its core, it’s doing the same thing as a magazine freebie. By paying for access, players can access a dynamically-changing realm of video games without making any decisions. Better still, players aren’t technically investing in a specific game, which negates buyer’s guilt entirely.
As a young gamer, I’d frequently play demo discs on repeat. While this was of course monotonous, buying new games was financially out of the question. In a way, Game Pass is like an evolved demo disc, providing an affordable way to experience multiple games at a small cost. Admittedly, I am envious of kids today, as they’ll ever know what it’s like to play MediEvil’s Cemetary Hill level on repeat.
There’s nothing worse than buying a game then finding out it’s a stinker. In the past, demo discs accompanied reviews as a sort of heads up. After all, gaming reviews are subjective, so reviews in themselves won’t always save you from disappointment.
Game Pass is more effective than a demo in this respect, as it gives players the whole track to test drive, rather than just a segment. Being able to gorge on an entire game before deciding you don’t like it is invaluable, especially if the game’s quality is inconsistent.
A voyage of discovery
Specific purposes aside, there’s something special about aimlessly exploring a collection of games. Whether it’s on a demo disc or on Game Pass, discovering new games is always a blast. Personally, I have countless memories of games I discovered through demo discs. The original PlayStation was known for having some awesome demo compilations, which have shaped my gaming preferences as a whole. Game Pass also has the power to do this, especially when it comes to younger players exploring lesser-known games.
Game Pass is an extremely versatile platform. It’s home to a plethora of iconic games, which reside under the same roof as various indie titles. In a sense, Game Pass’ living arrangements are exactly like that of a classic demo disc. PlayStation demos, in particular, covered a lot of ground. From bedroom projects to big-budget titles, each disc contains a wealth of content from across the gaming spectrum. If Game Pass existed back in the 90s, countless homebrew games could have been given a proper chance at success.
Of course, when I say homebrew PlayStation games, I mean those created on PlayStation’s Net Yarzoe development kit. This piece of tech might look like an ordinary PlayStation painted black, but it’s actually a coding hobbyist’s dream come true. 86 homebrew games were made using the kit, many of which were released on Official PlayStation magazine discs. Thankfully, the internet has kept tabs on these games over years. Otherwise, they might have been lost in the dusty depths of gaming history. As a side note, you should totally look up Super Bub Contest, which is a personal Net Yarzoe favourite of mine.
Fast forward to 2021 and the indie development scene is much more accessible. Services like Game Pass amplify the indie scene tenfold, bringing smallscale development to new heights.
According to Phil Spencer, Game Pass deals are made “based on the developer’s needs” [via PC Gamer]. This gives smaller studios the ability to get their game onto a platform visited by thousands of players. Again, this is similar to demo discs of old, which would be obtained by thousands of magazine readers and subscribers.
In years to come, Game Pass could invoke similar feelings of nostalgia to that of demo discs now. If you played a demo disc in your youth, chances are that you’ve got memories of a game that you can’t quite place. For me, that game was Kula World on the original PlayStation, a game I could describe in perfect detail, but could never remember the name of. I’ve got a demo disc to thank for those memories, especially since it’s a game I wouldn’t have naturally chosen as a kid.
Game Pass could introduce gamers to a whole library of games they’d never have played otherwise. However, unlike with demo discs, players can actually keep tabs on which games they try. This is important, especially since our gaming preferences evolve over time. Sometimes it takes us a little time to reflect on our gaming experiences before we appreciate them.
Game Pass was never intended to be replacement for demo discs, but it’s a bloody good one. Games are getting more and more expensive, so being able to try before you buy is more important than ever. Games Pass isn’t for everyone, especially since there’s implications when it comes to games ownership. Still, the platform is perfect for gamers who want to experiment and explore. The next time you fire up your Xbox or PC, dive head first into Game Pass and pretend you’re playing a demo disc, you honestly won’t regret it.
P.S. If you choose a game you don’t like? Ditch it and move on! That’s the beauty of demo discs, whether they’re metaphorical or not.
Featured Image Credit: Microsoft