Summer Game Fest

Can Xbox pull off bringing a major showfloor booth direct to living rooms?

Xbox has recently announced that it will be holding a Summer Games Fest Demo Event from the 21st to the 27th of July. The event is part of Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest but it’s far more ambitious than simply bringing than a video stream or even a bunch of PC demos on Steam.

Xbox is compiling a whopping “60 brand-new game demos for upcoming, unreleased Xbox games” which will all be available via a special tile on the Xbox dashboard. That’s roughly analogous, or beyond, the kind of showing it would have at an event such as E3.

Now, usually at a show such demos would be running on debug units and be staffed to deal with the inevitable bugs and glitches. To deploy all this software onto retail machines for gamers to play with unsupervised really is a brave new move for Xbox, or any console for that matter.

It’s a major shift for a console platform, which are usually very wary of having anything that hasn’t passed strict certification on the platform, though increasing numbers of early access games on Xbox in recent years have already softened this line.

Glenn Gregory, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, ID@Xbox is very keen to double-down on the difference from normal demos in his blog post.

“These are not normal ‘game demos’. Typically, the demos you see in our Demo channel are created after the game is completed (or nearly completed) and represent the final version. Many of these demos are early, and some are for games that won’t be out for quite some time.

“We’ve never done this before; what that means is that you’ll get to experience these games early – some way early – which is awesome, but you should also note that these games will continue to evolve and be polished as they near release. In other words, think of these as akin to ‘show floor demos’ and not necessarily indicative of the final product.”

It’s a brave new approach to consumer events and getting games in the hands of gamers, and while there will be no cosplay or merch stalls, if it’s a success it could seriously move the goalposts in terms of publisher’s and indies approach to physical events.

That said, the kind of feedback and community building you get from having a stand at an event is still something to treasure. But Xbox will be encouraging players to provide feedback to developers based on the demos, though there’s no mention of how that might work yet.

Presently all the announced titles are indie games, mainly from the ID@Xbox initiative, but with Microsoft’s first party event timed for around the same period, it’s entirely possible we’ll see some Xbox Game Studios games in the mix too.

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