Steam Spring Game Festival: Play over 40 game demos for free

Test drive over 40 games this week as indie developers collaborate on an all-digital replacement for GDC and E3.

Credit: Valve

Chances are you’re trapped inside right now. I am, here in San Francisco, and while nothing can truly dispel the anxiety that stems from the current global situation, video games can certainly help mitigate the boredom. Luckily, you’re about to get a lot of free video games—or at least a lot of demos—thanks to the Steam Game Festival: Spring Edition.

It’s the second Steam Game Festival, following on from the one last December. Geoff Keighley helped organize that first iteration as a promotion for his annual Game Awards showcase, calling it a “a first-of-its-kind digital consumer event that brings the magic of hands-on gameplay demos to fans around the world.” People could download and trial about a dozen games, including SkateBird, System Shock, Eastward, Spiritfarer, and more.

With GDC and E3 both canceled due to the coronavirus, Steam and Keighley joined forces again to host a second Steam Game Festival with games “from studios who missed out on the chance to demo their games at showcases like Indie Megabooth, Day of the Devs, and The MIX”—and this one’s a hell of a lot bigger. More than 40 games are available to demo for the duration of the event, and you’ll have from now until 10 a.m. Pacific on March 23 to sample them. That should tide you over until Half-Life: Alyx, eh?

Here’s a long (yet partial) list of games that will have demos available during the Steam Spring Game Festival. Other demos will also be available, and Valve tells us that yet more games will be featured with content that isn’t demos: 

I’m curious to see where this goes in the future. Events like GDC, E3, and PAX have long been the only way to get hands-on time with games before release, but Keighley’s already out there saying he wants the Steam Game Festival to be a permanent fixture. “We’ll have more editions of the Festival throughout the year to connect gamers around the world to content you can play at home,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

Sure, it’s doubtful this sort of at-home demo is a workable solution for the sorts of tentpole releases we’d usually demo behind-closed-doors at E3. Those builds are usually poorly optimized and buggy and developers don’t want everyone to see the rough edges. Just look at how reticent CD Projekt was to release footage of Cyberpunk 2077, let alone a playable build.

But for indies? I imagine this gets a lot more word-of-mouth than trying to fight for eyes at the Indie Megabooth. I’m excited to see how it evolves, and excited to try out a few games given that I was—in happier times—supposed to be at GDC this week. Silver lining: At least now I have plenty of time.

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Hayden Dingman

PC World (US online)
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