Xbox Game Pass is adding game demos this year

Xbox Game Pass
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Demos were a core part of the gaming scene in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, letting you play the first stages of upcoming games and whet your appetite for their full release later in the year. The problem was they were costly to make and diverted the developers’ attention from finishing the game. In the past 15 years, demos largely dropped off the scene, with alpha and beta tests for multiplayer games taking their place, and single-player game developers opting for trailers and a big marketing push to build hype for launch day.

Microsoft wants to change all that.

The tech giant has revealed an upcoming Xbox Game Pass update codenamed Project Moorcroft. It will let developers release demos of their games to all Xbox Game Pass subscribers and build anticipation for a title ahead of launch.

Predicting that developers may not be able to invest the time and money on making a demo alongside the actual game, Microsoft says it will be compensating the game makers. It hopes this will encourage developers to participate in the scheme, especially as, on top of the money they could earn, developers will have access to data on how their games perform.

This new Xbox Game Pass feature targets independent developers and Microsoft talks about it being a curated selection, so it sounds like it could be a great space in your sub to check out weird and wonderful new games regularly.

Microsoft doesn’t have a set release date for the Project Moorcroft update beyond saying it will be out this year. Presumably, we will hear more about the program, and perhaps even learn about some of the first indie games that will be releasing demos through it, at Microsoft’s press conference this weekend. Here’s how to watch the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase.

While Xbox Game Pass has been great for letting us try out games after they’ve launched, and PS Plus will do the same when Sony launches its redesigned subscription service later this month, having a tightly designed introductory demo to a game ahead of launch just offers something different. Having the chance to see a game’s reveal and immediately go and play a bite-size taster is something I really miss from the ‘90s. I’m glad Microsoft is trying to bring it back.

Julian Benson
Contributor, TechRadar Gaming

Julian's been writing about video games for more than a decade. In that time, he's always been drawn to the strange intersections between gaming and the real world, like when he interviewed a NASA scientist who had become a Space Pope in EVE Online,  or when he traveled to Ukraine to interview game developers involved in the 2014 revolution, or that time he tore his trousers while playing Just Dance with a developer.