Tobold's Blog
Friday, February 10, 2023
Steam Next Fest

I am old enough to remember a time when people used to get information about video games from printed magazines. And even back then I was annoyed by those print magazine spending the majority of their coverage on games that weren't out yet. So I have to say that I am not a huge fan of the currently ongoing Steam Next Fest. I am all in favor of there being demos for games, or developer live streams. But at the Next Fest, all of these games aren't even out in early access yet.

I understand the use of early access, and I do play early access games. I don't mind terribly that for example in early access Baldur's Gate 3, you can't get further than level 5, or past the events of the first act of the game, that act being really large enough to try a lot of different things. And I really enjoy Against the Storm, which has major additions to the game every two weeks; but while the game is constantly changing, it is at any stage a complete game. There are bad early access experiences where the game not only isn't finished, it isn't even a complete playable game at the early access stage.

So I looked at some of the Steam Next Fest demos, and some of them basically are the version of the game *before* you could even describe them as early access. Proof of concepts, so to say. The poor man's version of a game trailer. For example I looked at Plan B: Terraform, which is a city builder / logistics game at a planetary scale, with deliberate global warming to make the poles melt and create a habitable world out of a desert. At least that is what it says on the label, you can't actually get near anything resembling terraforming in the demo. The demo is more like a much simplified version of Factorio. Which isn't a bad concept, but obviously still very far from content promised by the title of the game.

I don't usually buy videogames on Kickstarter. The failure rate of that category is high. So I definitively don't want Steam to turn into a Kickstarter-like platform for proof of concept videogames. There are enough games that are already finished, or at least early access playable. We don't need a promotion for a step still before early access.

Geez. Is this really something worth griping about? It's a load of free, short games you can play or ignore. What's the problem? No-one's trying to trick or mislead anyone.

I also think you're extrapolating a general problem from a specific example. How many demos have you actually played in this or the previous Next Fests? I've played maybe thirty or more now and most of them have been polished, enjoyable and entertaining. The ones that aren't, well, so what? At the very worst it's taken a few minutes of my time to find out they're games I can ignore. Is that really so terrible?

I'm having a great time in the current Next Fest, trying out a bunch of games I would never even have looked at otherwise. So far, most of them are even good! I've already wishlisted two but even if I never buy them, I've had several hours of solid entertainment purely from the demos - for nothing. Doesn't seem like much of a problem from where I'm standing.

@Bhagpuss Geez. Is this really something worth griping about?

That is a really strange question coming from somebody who is griping about every single one of my posts.
Personally I find Steam to be such a firehose of stuff that I actually often learn about new games from Gog! I see fewer but at least I can keep up with what I see!

I'm pleased to see demos come back a bit, though it is generally indie or at most AA titles that can't just zap your Corporate Trust node and make you believe that the ad represents the game.
Do you still read any paper magazines about games? (Doesn't sound like it, but...)
I bought a board game magazine recently, but didn't enjoy it much. Most of my information comes from online sources these days.
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