A History of Game Demos (According to Me)

Back in the early days of gaming, acquiring a game demo was kind of a big deal. It was a form of physical media that you had to receive either through a magazine, a game store or some other means. For game companies to put together and distribute a game demo was another problem altogether. Not only did the game developers need to create a demo version of the game (or use a part from the actual game), someone would have to physically create it on a disc or cartridge.

Early “Demo Disc” Sponsored by Pizza Hut

The earliest demos I remember receiving were “demo discs” which usually came with a magazine or attached to some other product. You could also sometimes find them in the strangest places (like a Pizza Hut). The “demo disc” was basically a collection of short trials for multiple upcoming games. Sometimes you could even acquire an older “demo disc” containing released games, but it was still a fun way to test out a few different games.

The first “demo” I remember receiving was not really a “demo” at all. It wasn’t playable. In the days of N64, I remember receiving a VHS tape showcasing the new, upcoming Diddy Kong Racing game. I don’t remember if we somehow asked for this VHS tape. I think Nintendo just sent them out to houses that they knew or thought had either an N64 or children. The tape worked though, because we did end up buying Diddy Kong Racing (and I played many, many hours of racing with my sister).

Someone posted the Diddy Kong Racing video on YouTube!
Now, watch this video and tell me you don’t want this game… I dare you!

Today, demos are much easier to release to the public with digital game shops on consoles and PCs. The concept has even evolved from demos for players, to betas and alphas (or whatever they want to call it) for developers and publishers to test out their upcoming game servers with real traffic. There are still many demos made to give players a taste of the newest games, but many online games will give us a taste just to make sure they’ll be able to handle the player traffic online on release.

Many demos today come in the form of downloadable, time-sensitive betas

For the past few years most of my experiences with Call of Duty games have been through FREE beta, alpha or test server weekends. I did download and play some of Call of Duty: Warzone, but only because it was a FREE TO PLAY game. Of course, I later had to delete it because of its sheer size (over 100 GB), and that was just for the free portion of the game. I don’t know if it’s even larger if you own the entire game.

Game demos, betas and free weekends do get me excited for new games. When game awards season comes around and the trailers give us info to sign up for early tests and betas I always do. I don’t know why I do this, I guess I just get hyped for new games. I’ve tried a bunch of demos and betas, but many of them end with me thinking, that was cool, but I don’t think I need that or really have time for that in my life. There are just too many games in the wild today.

Call of Duty: Cold War had a few different test weekends for players. I was able to give it a test drive once or twice and I had some great times in a few online matches. The Call of Duty controls and shooting mechanics keep getting better and better. But I’d still rather get back into Overwatch if I’m going to get into some online multiplayer. I have Star Wars: Squadrons which I haven’t even really touched online yet, but will when I end the campaign missions. I may end up buying COD: Cold War on sale later on, just to complete the campaign.

The Nintendo eShop didn’t allow me to take a screenshot from within the eShop of the “Games with Demos” page, so instead I took a picture of this article from the “Nintendo News” section of my Switch.

One place to get tons of free demos is on the Nintendo Switch eShop. I’ve downloaded so many demos on there and many were deleted without ever being opened. I have tried out some games I knew nothing about. Many times I don’t care to know any more about them. Other times I do think the same as before, that was cool, but I guess it’s not really for me, or I just don’t have the time right now. Maybe later? But, I also have bought and become obsessed with a new game thanks to the demo.

Demos and Betas are fun because you are essentially trying out something new. And, the most exciting part of any game is jumping into this brand new world for the first time ever. It’s always great with any product to be able to try it before you actually buy it and this is especially true with games. A game may look beautiful in a trailer or from watching some gameplay, but until you actually try it out for yourself you won’t truly know how you feel about it.

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