Xbox Project Moorcraft to bring game demos back to the fore

Game Pass continues to evolve.

Amid of flurry announcements signalling what’s next for Xbox gaming, Microsoft has revealed plans to make game demos an integral component of its Game Pass subscription service.

The fledgling program, dubbed Project Moorcroft, promises to bring “the fun and discovery of playing new, curated demos of upcoming games to our Xbox Game Pass members.”

Demos played a prominent part on previous-generation Xbox consoles but have largely disappeared from the scene. Crucially, Microsoft’s decision to restore game trials will see developers compensated for their efforts, and Project Moorcroft will launch within 12 months with an emphasis on indie titles.

According to Microsoft, devs participating in the program will be given the tools to see how demos perform, helping build anticipation and gauge reaction while receiving some amount of remuneration.

Microsoft views the move as a way to restore some of the hype that has been lost with high-profile game conferences having closed their doors. In the past, attendees of events such as E3 had the opportunity to try upcoming games before anyone else, often waiting hours in line for the privilege.

Sarah Bond, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of game creator experience and ecosystem, reckons Project Moorcroft gives developers the means to “generate excitement about what they’re building and what’s coming next.”

“We were sitting around as a team thinking, you remember it used to be you go to E3, you go to PAX, and you would go visit some of your favourite creators and they would have a piece or a level of a game that you could sit there and play. Those opportunities are getting smaller and smaller and more difficult to replicate. And they’re especially difficult for indie developers, smaller studios that don’t have as much resource necessarily to put on their own show to attract a big audience,” adds Bond.

“So we said, you know what? Why don’t we take Game Pass and make it like the show floor? Why don’t we make it possible for a developer to take a piece, a level of their game, release it into Game Pass, generate excitement for what’s coming, and also get that really valuable feedback as they are tuning and preparing their game for launch?”

Compensating developers makes implicit sense given how much work goes in to creating a curated demo, but the amount of financial incentive remains to be seen, and we’re eager to see how many developers get on board. At the time of writing, Microsoft hasn’t confirmed which studios will be taking part.

Project Moorcroft is yet another demonstration of Microsoft exploring multiple avenues to extend the appeal of Xbox gaming from the enthusiast through to the mainstream. Curated demos align neatly with the firm’s plans to bring Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming to Samsung Smart TVs later this month.