Xbox One's Game Preview System: Blessing or Curse?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Xbox One's Game Preview System: Blessing or Curse?

So recently, being a console game buff, I got exposed to something that PC gamers have long since enjoyed, as such: the Game Preview system on Xbox One. Also known as "Early Access" over at Steam, the system allows for players to take a whack at games in a comparatively unfinished state with an eye toward getting the full version later. But how well does it work? I'd say there's good news afoot, but not without a few problems.

I've taken advantage of Microsoft's offer of an hour's free trial of the games, and I've discovered a few things. Perhaps the biggest discovery that I've made so far is that I want more of this, and that may be the strangest discovery to make in some time.

I tried both games available so far, "Elite: Dangerous" and "The Long Dark," both games I've heard and even written about in the past. What I discovered about these games, meanwhile, was a whole different matter. I was eager for "Elite: Dangerous thanks to the sheer range of possibility it represented, but after playing it for a while and discovering that the game handled like trying to steer a narcoleptic seal with a fish on a stick, I found that as exciting as the concept was, the current game was not for me. "The Long Dark," meanwhile, proved sufficiently exciting to catch my interest after the demo, if for nothing else than to see if the random nature occasionally gets you access to more gear than I was getting on the lake. Sure, those ice shanties and cabins were all fine and dandy, but it took me maybe 20 minutes to loot the lot. Where else was I going to go? I had not clue one. Didn't matter, actually, because I froze to death not long after, but I was sufficiently intrigued to put my $19.95 on it.

I understand, of course, that there are dangers to Game Preview just as there are to Early Access, but it all boils down to that key phrase: "sufficiently intrigued." What Game Preview does is allow users to take a crack at a game, see what they thing, and attempt to elicit that "sufficiently intrigued" reaction to get users in the door. This is actually not far from how gaming used to be in the days of demo discs in magazines; it used to be--and here I date myself a smidgen (not to mention by using words like "smidgen" unabashedly) by describing such practices--that you could get hands on a string of demos on one disc, playable instantly, for games set to emerge later. Now things are a bit different in this post-disc, post-magazine era, but the idea is the same, sort of.

Yes, there's a certain amount of caveat that has to go into this situation. You're paying for a very unfinished game, one that may never actually come to light. Never just buy the game; start with the demo first to make sure it's something worth trying; that first impression is important. Granted, even the 60 minute demo only goes so far--for "Elite: Dangerous" for example, it's barely a handshake--but it's enough to get a first impression, and that's important. I knew enough to know that "Elite: Dangerous" in its current form was not the game for me, but "The Long Dark" was intriguing enough to be. That's what seems to be the point of Game Preview, and all I know is that I want to see more games in that section. Not two a quarter or whatever the current rate is; I'd like a couple a month. Maybe more.

Granted, Game Preview is still just getting started, and so a note of patience is called for here as the lineup gets a bit more pronounced. I'm eagerly awaiting a crack at DayZ on familiar controls. But this is the nature of things; it'll likely get better as time goes along. Sure, a little more education wouldn't be bad for those less familiar with how such things work, those who don't keep up with the industry like programmers and even us humble game bloggers. But the more of this we see, the better it will likely be as people learn just how it works.

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