Prey finally has a real demo on PC (but is calling it a trial except when it calls it a demo)
When is a demo not a demo?
Oh, nice! After trying to highlight a few games that have PC demos recently (I do like a demo - it's far friendlier than a refund scheme and can actually be really interesting as a piece of curation or editing in and of itself, although obv it then requires more work and doesn't contain the possibility of someone forgetting to get a refund or straying outside the no-questions refund period) there's now one for the sci-fi adventure, Prey [official site].
If memory serves, the reasoning for having a console demo earlier in the game's life but not one for PC was given as a resource thing. Basically Steam's refund policy lets you refund a game if you've played less than two hours so the effort went into making console demos and the Steam policy would cover those on PC until a dedicated demo could be made. As per the first paragraph of this story, the Steam refund policy and the ability to play a demo aren't the same thing so I'm glad we have this now.
Alec went into more detail on the difference back after lead dev, Raphael Colantonio made the point initially:
As for the refund aspect – well, a bit to unpack there. “So it’s like a demo already” isn’t quite right, in that you have to fork over a forty-odd quid “deposit” just to access to it, and though Steam’s refund system is generally quite reliable, there’s always that worry that you’ll be the poor shmoe who it doesn’t work out for.
From Bethesda/Arkane’s point of view, they also miss out on a bit of pre-orderage because the demo is not available pre-release as it is on console. But hey, that’s their problem.
Then there’s having to keep a close eye on the clock while playing to make sure you don’t accidentally go ever two hours even if you’re having a perfectly awful time. Not exactly difficult, but it is one more block removed from the teetering “it’s like a demo already” Jenga tower.
Actually, returning to that news story I note that the first comment is from a user pointing out they got a warning email for requesting too many refunds which said "You’ve requested a bunch of refunds recently. Please keep in mind that refunds are not a method for trying out games. If we think the refund system is being misused we’ll decline to grant future refunds." - that seems to be a message that multiple people have received, after a quick scout of various forums and subreddits (usually prompted by a glut of refunds due to speculative sale purchases) and so it helps bolster the case for demos still being important even if you don't care about the other reasoning. It also points to inconsistency in Valve's own messaging but that's another million words of editorial right there.
ANYWAY, I should probably talk about the actual game for a bit. Prey has you aboard a space station of the future which has been infested by hostile alien creatures of various, related flavours. It's survival horror, with some curious powers at your disposal and a story to pick into about what's going on. With the PC demo you get roughly the game's opening hour - also it's not a really a demo, it's a trial.
The distinction Arkane are making is that with their Prey demo you'd get a separate experience from the game proper in terms of your progression, whereas with a trial you retain your progress and get any trophies or achievements you earned in that time. Nicely complicating proceedings is that Steam is referring to the trial as a demo. I'm assuming that might be language that's hard-coded into the store interface but I'm not sure enough of that to say for definite that Steam demo progress would feed into the full game if you stuck with it. I also haven't seen an answer to the question on the discussion board AND I can't download the demo and test it myself because I own the game. [It is indeed a trial, presenting an option to unlock the full game on the main menu -non-Preying ed.]
If you do like the demo/trial/thing and want the full game, it's half-price right now, down to £19.99/29,99€/$29.99 on Steam.
One final point, which John can borrow for his big book of baffling Steam interface choices, is that a lot of people seem to be confused about where to find said demo/trial: it's the blue "download demo" button on the Steam page.