The ability to try before you buy has been a thorn in gaming retail’s side for generations. From the demo discs of old to the subscription models of today, publishers and shopfronts have had to wrestle with the idea that a lot of people only want to spend money on games they’ll enjoy.
Whether that’s right or not, I don’t have the bandwidth for today—the idea that you could get a refund for a bad movie is laughable, but then, movies don’t cost $70, and what even is a “bad” game anyway?—but regardless, I’ve always been fascinated by the systems and processes companies have tried over the years to help sell their games.
Like this! Steam has long been a battleground for this kind of stuff. You’ve long been able to download demos on Steam if the studio/publisher wanted it, and free weekends have also been here for ages, but for a while now the accepted practice on the platform has been buy a game, play it for a bit and if you don’t like it within the first two hours, you can just refund it and get your money back.
That’s not an ideal scenario for anyone. Games are big downloads these days, and companies are actually losing money on processing fees every time you have to refund a transaction. So Valve looks to have thought of something new: a demo, only you get to play the full game, only you get a very limited amount of time to actually play it.
Dead Space is the first to offer the “Timed Trial” feature—which is baked into Steam itself, so surely it’s more than a one-off—and you can see how it works below:
Is 90 minutes enough time to really get a handle on a game? I don’t know! It’s a figure that sits below the point you used to be able to request a refund on, but also sits a few hours back from the point where some games start getting good, so who knows how useful this could be.
I’ve asked Valve if other games are going to be implementing this soon, and if so if their time limits can be adjusted by publishers/studios.