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Play the new System Shock and other unreleased games for free today

(Image credit: Nightdive Studios)

If you ever dreamed about going to E3 to queue for hours on endless lines to play a new unreleased game for five minutes, congratulations for being a masochist. The rest of us couch potatoes would rather try those games at home — and that’s precisely the promise of The Game Festival, a new 48-hour Steam-based event that kicks off today December 12 at 1pm ET/10pm PT.

As Ars Technica points out, you will be able to log in on Steam on a Windows laptop or desktop at that time have access to demos of “over a dozen” of unreleased games for free. The games will only be playable for the next 48 hours.

The list below is preliminary and, apparently, there may be a lot more unannounced titles coming. 

  • System Shock (Nightdive Studios)
  • Eastward (Pixpil/Chucklefish)
  • Spiritfarer (Thunder Lotus)
  • Moving Out (SMG Studio/Devm Games/Team17)
  • Röki (Polygon Treehouse/United Label)
  • Chicory (Greg Lobanov)
  • Wooden Nickel (Brain&Brain)
  • Haven (The Game Bakers)
  • Heavenly Bodies (2pt Interactive)
  • Acid Knife (Powerhoof)
  • The Drifter (Powerhoof)
  • Carrion (Phobia/Devolver)
  • SkateBIRD (Glass Bottom Games)

There’s an obvious absence of AAA titles (although, again, this may not be the definitive list). But don’t let that you underestimate the line up. According to Ars Technica, which has already played some of these games at press events, they are worth it.

And then there’s the System Shock remake/reboot and that’s enough for me. The iconic 320 x 200 pixel, MSDOS-based horror sci-fi game developed by Looking Glass still gives me nightmares after playing the original when Origin Systems published it in 1994.

System Shock was the spiritual heir to Looking Glass’ Ultima Underworld (another classic game that still gives me nightmares too after I finished it on a 24 hour binge)  and it arguably started the story-based action games genre, which includes Deus Ex, BioShock, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil or Half Life.

Shocking the system

Most importantly, however, is what this game festival represents for the future of gaming and the relationship of companies with fans. Free of a physical space, the lines disappear and users can actually test the new games without any annoying waits and hassle. Just download whatever demo, run it whenever you want over the next two days, and that’s it. Then, when the game comes out, you will know if you want to buy it full or not. Concentrating the demos in an specific time window keeps the excitement. I imagine that, in the future, these may be integrated with video keynotes in which people can click to directly download demos to their devices — and eventually with VR/AR systems.

It’s an obvious great Idea. This is software, after all. Why turn the announcement of new games into an unpleasant experience that only wastes resources (imagine the material and travel required to organize and attend these mega events)? Especially when you can allow your potential users to comfortably try your games while stuffing their faces with Cheetos? 

It is just the most logical path in an internet-dominated world — especially with Google Stadia, Microsoft Project xCloud, and other cloud-based game streaming services coming online. Most likely, this first edition is just the beginning. It’s time to shock the system and cancel all these deficient, resource-consuming game events that are always a source of frustration to visitors and non-visitors alike.