Elden Ring Is Here, Demonstrating Again That It Should Be Easier To Try Before You Buy

Elden Ring is out a new addition to the critically acclaimed but often esoteric Soulsborne genre. From Software’s infamous difficult games tend to be about being loved or hated, but a few notable voices in games say this one is more accessible and less off-putting and deserves a chance even from those who have struggled to get in Soulsbornes before. As someone who fits that definition exactly, I’d love to try Elden Ring and see if that finally becomes the game it clicks into, but players just don’t have an easy and consistent way to try out the game – Elden Ring or something also, that they may end up regretting that they didn’t buy. It’s time to change that, and the platforms themselves need to be ahead.

Again, this is not a unique issue with Elden Ring, but the game serves as a useful example. More than most games, Elden Ring is likely to confuse some players by feeling impenetrable from the start. Some will get over this initial frustration and find a rewarding experience on the other side, while others will quickly realize that it’s just not their game.

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Ways to the principle of “try before you buy” are gradually fading away. Lease options became fragmented and inconsistent. Sharing games is more difficult, and digital copies on consoles are completely impossible. In the case of Elden Ring, the game’s trial would help players like me who feel compelled to try it out to have an option beyond looking for rent or potentially spending $70. Even as an adult with a stable income who can afford it, this is a big request, and there are still many potential fans who don’t even have that luxury.

At the same time, I can’t blame From Software or any other developer for not releasing a demo. Its creation takes a lot of time and creates an additional burden on studios that are already facing a crisis. The result is a status quo: a hodgepodge of studios and publishers, sometimes offering demos as promotional tools before release, sometimes long after, sometimes carrying progress into the full game, sometimes without, and with no rhyme or reason in between. Frankly, this is a complete mess and unnecessary.

This is not necessary because the platform holders – Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Valve, and Epic – should take the lead in solving this problem. In the age of consoles that are constantly connected to the network, developers do not need to create their own demos at all. Instead, consoles and PC platforms may simply allow you to download the full game and play for a set period of time. If you are concerned about piracy, this feature can be turned off if you try to play offline.

Instead of creating individual demos for each game, developers could simply choose how long a game’s trial should last. For shorter games, the trial may only last half an hour. For a longer game like Elden Ring, From Soft may decide that you can use a few hours in the world to really see if the game is right for you.

In fact, we already know that this technology works because platform holders are already using it. Free play weekends are common on both PlayStation and Xbox, where you download the full game and try it out for a limited time, with EA Play offering longer trials as a standard feature. Any security issues with such a system have apparently already been resolved to the developers’ satisfaction, so all that’s left is for them to make trials a feature for individual players. Similarly, Steam already has a fairly generous return policy, which some players see as a trial system. Why not remove the artificial completely?

Eliminating the hassle of offering a demo service will likely increase developer engagement. Of course, some developers may opt-out entirely or still create their own demos that showcase a particular piece of their game. They may want to move on to a later point when your character has more abilities or bypass trial players who discover a particular plot point. This option can and should still exist, but it may be related to broader universal testing of games.

The philosophy is similar to the one that Xbox executives often cite when promoting Game Pass: when you make games more accessible to try, more players will find games they’ll love. The reverse is also true: fewer gamers get annoyed by spending money on the games they do not love. This ultimately pushes many players to be risk-averse when it comes to purchasing full games, only spending on sure bets that provide the highest bang for your buck. With games so ubiquitous, it’s easy to overlook them if you’re not sure you’ll like them. This is the sale that Elden Ring and similar games could have if they gave us a launchpad. What’s more, Soulsborne has a very ardent following; Giving their insecure friends a chance to try out the latest game can lead to more sales and more fans.

When Microsoft introduced the Xbox One, its always-online console, in 2013, it was widely and rightly derided. Microsoft was trying to rush into a vision of the future that consumers didn’t want and that the internet infrastructure at the time couldn’t support. The advantages offered may have been enticing, but the disadvantages outweighed them. Technology has continued to evolve, and we have essentially reached the same point in an organic way. Many gamers treat their consoles like they’re always online, which means it’s time to start enjoying the benefits offered by this vision of the future. Players don’t have to guess what games they’ll like and hope they don’t spend money on a game that just isn’t for them. Technology already exists to avoid this outcome forever. We just need to tell platform owners to start using it.

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