The first use of a "free to play" prologue of a paid game as far as I can tell was used by Stoneshard, by HypeTrain Digital, back in 2018.

Basically, seemed like a marketing strategy to have a demo get more atention, having its own Steam webpage, and appearing as a "free game", it'd have potential to reach a wider audience.

It probably worked well, because nowadays it sometimes feels like a rule. And I'm pissed off!

Why? Seems like a band-aid solution to a problem, which actually is: demos are somewhat hidden, either because gamers aren't fond of trying demos, or just because Steam store doesn't make a good job promoting them.

Now, we have a flood of "fake free to play" games arriving daily on Steam, that are basically glorified demos that pay to have an additional store page. Steam is, as usual, closing its eye to the problem, because as usual, it's making a profit over it.

Why "fake free games"? Because many times, the prologue is removed without notice along the game release (which also happens to demo themselves often). Probably because devs don't want to bother updating them, or just believe having them over would hurt sales of their games, which is another deeper problem I guess.

What's your take on this? Should Steam do something about this? Should developers/publishers do something? Or should we, as gamers/consumers, do? Or just chill and whatever?

1 month ago*

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You're not the only one. I had this phase where I was adding all free games I could find using ArchiSteam Farm, just for the sake of it. Eventually I started using Playnite to manage my library, and it was the first time I realized how many "Prologues" I had, and I've been removing them from my account ever since. It's an endless task and I regret having add all these free games back then.

I don't expect Steam to do anything about it. Devs have all the incentives to create prologues, even if it sucks for us, customers. The responsibility is on us to avoid them, unfortunately. Besides being watchful, I doubt anything will change.

1 month ago
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I'm glad I'm not alone!

I actually decided to create a thread because a game I follow emailed me asking the "wishlist" their prologue on Steam, Shoulder of Giants.

Mind you, they already have the game on Epic Games Store being sold for a while, and their Steam "product" page set up (which I already wishlisted long ago), and then the call to "wishlist their prologue on Steam", for a game that already is actually out (and I own, on another platform), made me really angry!

While I love the devs and their games, I decided to not wishlist their prologue, and create a thread here to rant instead!

1 month ago
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What really pisses me off is that, a few times, I've hidden games here on SG because I searched for them on my Playnite library, found a match, but assumed the match meant I owned the game in another launcher (GOG, EGS) instead of just being the Prologue. Managing my library became a hellish task.

I also really dislike when they choose other names. Instead of being "Game - Prologue", they fancy around and use titles like "Game - First Days" and "Game - Adventure Begins" or similar shit. To this day, I still have no clue if "Mythic Frost Trials" is a full game or a prologue, and I decided to give up

1 month ago
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same as my son did he did a very similar thing but stopped when these "games" were all about everywhere

1 month ago
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Oh come on, all of us sometimes lose self-control (I also had a similar period of grabbing everything free, then came to senses and spent ages cleaning my library from trash), but that's hardly a reason to remove the feature itself.

1 month ago
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I find the feature overly confusing, and it achieves very little besides what demos already do. I'd remove/prohibit prologues from Steam if I could, while at the same time encouraging the use of demos as an alternative

1 month ago
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100% agreed.

Ideally, Steam should do a better job promoting demos, adding more features to it (dedicated forum, better product placement, review system, and so on), and even really encouraging users to try them (like a badge of demos tried, allowing devs to issue coupons/discount on launch for the full game if you tried the demo, whatever meta they could fit).

1 month ago
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There is a script that runs and deletes every free game from your library. After my "period" i used to to clean everything i messed up (around 6k free trash, i think). So, if anyone is too lazy to do it themselves might try to find it. I think there is a steam forum page for it somewhere out there.

1 month ago
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Wow, that is a lot of prologues. I didn't realize the problem was so widespread. I guess I was lucky and the games I play didn't develop a prologue?

I don't see any easy solution for this, except to not buy games that have a prologue? Or maybe play the prologue and leave a Steam review indicating that you feel duped and will not be buying the full game?

1 month ago
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It's very widespread - remember, many prologues are actually removed when the game is released, so there were much more out there!

Not buying games that have prologue would be the most ethic, but I guess some devs are feeling obliged to make a prologue to appear, I mean, they're victims as well of the Steam store, and people who actually abused the prologue thing before them.

The last idea actually reminded me of something related: Steam actually has a place to "Report this Product" (right column on Steam store, last button on the right, a flag), though unfortunately, none of the reasons to pick fit well for this.

1 month ago*
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I honestly don't get the issue. Yes, you've described them correctly, these are just demos with more active marketing, nobody is pretending these are actual complete games (so no, not «fake free games», just demos with their own pages). Not EA games people actually pay for and are often left with an unfinished product, these are FREE - as a demo should be. Who cares if a developer chooses to create a separate page for a game? They get more attention, attract more audience - good for them, and, if a game is decent, good for us. And why does a removal of such a game matter? What do you lose? A +1 in your library?

1 month ago
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The issue is that devs are creating additional store pages to promote games as a marketing tool, so it's like they're "making an ad" on Steam, and Steam doesn't work like that "yet". So it's an abuse of a feature.

The worst issue is that devs that don't do this, because of ethics or whatever, are "losing" space to others that do, so they're actually "being forced" to do it to have a better chance on Store.

And also, these pages might be just temporary, as oftens prologues are removed on the game release, without any information, so it was never a game by itself to begin with.

Removing them without notices harms people, because often people wishlist them, and when they remember the game later to play it, it's gone. It happens a lot, actually, from what I've found on Steam forums.

So, it's a loophole, an exploit, and day after day, the more devs do this, the more others are "obliged" to do. And again, Steam is happy, each extra prologue page is an additional $ 100 for Valve.

1 month ago*
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I'm not bothered by their existance, i'm bothered by their removal

1 month ago
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It's not abuse of anything. It's just a practical way to get people to try their stuff out and keeps their main game page and forum free of extra clutter. You are under no obligation to try them out however.

Every game should have some sort of demo or prelude for people to test out.

1 month ago
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It's an abuse, because there's already a system to place demos for actual products. Devs are paying to have extra product placement for the same product.

Forum clutter could be fixed by having a proper forum section, which devs can easily make, or again, a better "demo" system on the store itself, available for everyone and properly placed.

1 month ago*
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It's definitely not an abuse of anything. There is already a system in place by which devs can create a new page to offer their preludes free to anyone interested. Your own argument supports preludes. Cheers!

1 month ago
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My bad, wasn't are of it. Is there a public page on this?

Still, feels like a band-aid solution. Are these pages paid or free?

1 month ago*
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It's an abuse, because there's already a system to place demos for actual products

But you mentioned yourself that demos are "somewhat hidden" so until Steam does something about that, it's hardly abuse for developers to find other ways to make sure their demos stand out.

1 month ago
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I think free prologues are smart move. People can try a game without buy+refund scheme and developers can collect feedback before actual release, so you won't have to wait for x fix patches over week to be able play what you paid for.
But, that mechanics works for people who actually play games and doesn't consider collectors and idlers who just claims everything.

1 month ago
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Of course it's smart, I mean, that's why I'm considering it an abuse!

But shouldn't demos be used for that end instead?

1 month ago
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They don't cost anything, require minimal maintence, so I don't know what does bother you that much. You can simply ignore one for games you aren't interesting for you. Steam doesn't force you to add everyone of them and play them. If you used script to add every existing trash, that was only your decision, you can't blame steam or developers for that.

1 month ago
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Are you sure they don't cost anything for devs/publishers to set up?

For me, they're noise, they're not actually free games at all, just abusing the system to pose as free games, but they're actually demos, most of the time exactly the same demos on their stoer page.

And no, I haven't been adding prologues on my account.

1 month ago*
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I will ask guy who did that if he paid for and how much it costed

1 month ago
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So, I asked Honzys about it. For Knights path external demo he really had to pay 100€ fee, what he doesn!t like is wishlists don't transfer, but from what he says I understand it was done to get some suggestions and feedback for a game.
For full release game he will do new demo on its page which will represent final product better.

1 month ago
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Thanks for the info!

Which reminds me, Steam now has the "Playtest" system, which is another alternative to "not a demo, but try it for free", on the store pages themselves. Devs can either give Steam keys for said playtest, or even enable a button for players to participate on the store page.

Again, probably won't call as much atention as a prologue.

1 month ago
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What is this 'actually play games' thing you talk of?

1 month ago
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If someone adds every single existing free game to account, it most likely isn't for purpose to play them.

1 month ago
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Just to offer a counter perspective - with videogame preservation in the poor state it is today, I used to add free games IN CASE they ever got removed from the storefront. Given how much headache that gave me, ☠🦜🏴‍☠️ seems to be the easiest way around those cases of game removal

1 month ago
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Videogame preservation is about continuing to offer access to games for any interested parties rather than the games disappearing into the ether, yes? Maintaining an accessible historical record of such things?

Archiving development source code and art assets, digital copies of video games, emulation of video game hardware, maintenance and preservation of specialized video game hardware such as arcade games and video game consoles, and digitization of print video game magazines and books prior to the Digital Revolution.

1 month ago
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In my understanding, videogame preservation includes all you said, plus maintaining the ability to play a game, even if it is removed from storefronts. For an offline game that you claimed for your Steam account and that was later removed from the store by the dev, you'd maintain your ability to play it by claiming it when it was free and still available at the store.

1 month ago
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I've always been curious why some collectors call themselves preservationists. I like your answer. I think it's the distinction between the idea of preserving something for personal use vs preserving something for history. There's nothing wrong with the former of course.

I appreciate the response.

1 month ago
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No worries - I think my response is unashamedly a more "selfish" take on videogame preservation, where the focus is on my ability to play it afterwards, but I agree that preservation is way wider than that, and should include additional material that helps to contextualize the game when and where it was released :)

Have a great one!

1 month ago
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I like demos, I think they are great for consumers. If this gives more visibility for a game or not is something valve must take in consideration.
For me, demos are more important since the days they were coming on disks attached to a magazine.

1 month ago
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Demos are one thing, prologues are another.

Any Steam game can have a demo on its page, it'll show either as a green box to download it, or at the right column as a download demo.

A prologue is another Steam store page, with its own ID, put as a "free to play" game, and "behaves" like a demo - and that's what I'm criticizing, as it's an abuse to get more atention to a demo, by paying money to have an additional product page on Steam.

1 month ago
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You ignore that it has benefits too. With demos there are no ratings, now you have an additional option to identify some more interesting upcoming indie titles.
With prologues becoming regular it's indirectly a revival of demos. Which also is beneficial for the customers.

And last but not least: If almost everyone does prologues the advantage for the devs is becoming borderline irrelevant. The few highlights will shine and those deserve it anyway.

1 month ago
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I agree there're benefits, but... shouldn't then Steam fix itself and allow demos to be reviewed and have a better placement instead? That's why I called the prologue solution a "band-aid".

Currently, the prologue is an abuse of the system, so people who use it are paying to get more atention/placement, and others who don't are being harmed.

1 month ago
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That's the reason I personally like them, actually. A demo with reviews. Sometimes I deliberately search for "prologue" filtered to free and sorted by reviews to find some indie gems. Devs usually leave a wishlist link to the main game, so that's what I use to wishlist if I like the demo. It would have been nice if they made demos reviewable, but I'm not too bothered by the current solution. I'm in the "Neither" camp.

1 month ago*
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Interesting. Thanks for your take on this.

1 month ago
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Maybe steam should make feature to mark such "games" as demos with option to mark it or unmark during search. I mean you want search for demos you mark this option and sort by ranking or whatever if not you unmark it and see only full games.

1 month ago
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Demos are always welcome, even in this slightly improper form. On the other hand, sometimes these prologues are a separate experience that is not part of the full game (which makes more sense and is also welcome).

1 month ago
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But many devs are actually having both demos and prologues, which are often the same.

A prologue as a separate experience, with its own content, actually makes more sense... but I mean, aren't they actually potentially removing potential content from the product itself in the end, to "sell" it as a prologue then, on such cases?

1 month ago*
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Content is not really removed if it's publicly available and it's free. It works both as a demo and as a teaser and I see nothing wrong with it Of course you may disagree.

1 month ago
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I'm not particularly annoyed by them, but it would be better to have a proper, well-defined connection with the full games (demos are on the same page as the games, these are on separate, and people may not even know about them) - it would be also good if the devs would keep these around.

1 month ago
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Agreed.

1 month ago
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I have no opinion on prologues, but every game should be required to have a demo. And cheat codes.

1 month ago
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Yes that's pissing me off, Steam is overflown as it is, without hundreds of demos that can't be hidden like demos. The name "Prologue" itself is confusing, is it just a beginning of a game or maybe it has some unique content who knows. They don't even always have "prologue" in their name now, so you might think that it's actually a free game and it's just a prologue. What a BS.

1 month ago
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Bruh, at least they are for free. Now think about dozens of games, which you need to pay for - only to find out they really are some kind of advanced demos and without buying further dlcs, well....

1 month ago
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Well... that's a way of seeing things, can't disagree with that!

1 month ago
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As long as they are clearly labelled as prologues I don't see the issue. Bigger episodic games tend to have their first episode for free as well.
There's much worse spam on Steam that's actually exploiting gimmicks and such, I just see these as demos that don't want to have that label.

1 month ago
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The problem is that it's not a proper label! They might add "prologue", "prelude", or anything else, but the Steam store doesn't actually have a good place linking said product to the real product itself, or tagging them as that.

Not to mention there're other games that might use the words "prelude" and "prologue" and not be such "glorified demos", but a full game on its own. A word on the title can't be used as a reliable system for something.

Some might publish the demo build on the prologue, others might do a different story with different content.

Some might make the prologue always available, others might remove it on game launch without notice.

There's no proper label nor system nor rules about prologues.

1 month ago
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Valve should improve Demos. Right now you don't own a demo forever. You can't record playtime of demos on your profile. You can't see who of your friends has played a demo and so on. Have I played this demo before? I can't tell without first installing it. Fix demos and this issue will take care of itself.

1 month ago
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Agreed!

1 month ago
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I don't like the practice. It's abused by predatory dev's to get you hooked. Sometimes they just lead to a patreon.

1 month ago
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Interesting. Any examples of that?

1 month ago
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If I vote yes, does that mean I'm voting that you're the only one or does it mean I'm also bothered? For the record, I'm also bothered. I hate when these glorified demos are treated like full games and given out as streamer keys.

1 month ago
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Hahaha sorry for the confusion, but yeah, it's if you're bothered or not!

1 month ago
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Yeah, it's basically just a way to throw around demos without actually having them assigned to the 'demo' category.

1 month ago
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I like prologues in concept, they're basically demos under another name as you said but that isn't necessarily a bad thing, and sometimes you have the dev that goes beyond that and makes an actual prologue that's its own standalone thing complementing the main game. So it sounds like more of a good thing to me other than the fact that they're quite frequently a bit of a misnomer.
Although I had not noticed that there were that many of them, I imagine it must be turning into a bit of nightmare to sort through these if you're actively searching for little-known free games, but that's nothing that a bit of curation can't fix.

1 month ago
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Not really. I mean, as you mentioned, they are demos, and I'm old enough that I belong to the category of gamers who are sad that Demos are not a thing anymore with all the preorder bullshit. So I enjoy checking out demos of games before I buy them regardless of the name it is now.

Regarding devs using the new separate store page for the demos, I always assumed that is to prevent customers from running afoul of the Steam refund policy. I thought the demo from a store page would count as playtime towards that 2-hour limit. So they probably created a store page to give players a chance to try the Demo multiple times without losing the refund option.

1 month ago
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Not so different to how it was back in the day, you'd have to get a separate demo floppy/disk of the game. They obviously believe this method is to their advantage compared to just having a demo. $100 isn't so bad for advertising costs for most.

Some games have the first chapter free and have the additional portions of the game as paid DLCs which seems like a good method as it's still all on one page and the first part can be tracked normally.

1 month ago
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You are definitely not alone in this. The prologues are confusing things and discouraging actual game playthroughs. A culture is being built around trying out unfinished, chopped up games. People online streaming demos and spoiling beginnings was bad enough. Now the first chapter to new games is available before the real game can even release.

Another thing I mind is how prologues take up insane amounts of space on the store. So much that there would have to be a filter when browsing F2P games to get rid of them, because maybe you want to hold off on trying out unfinished games and instead play real, complete F2P experiences or versions of those very same games that aren't free.

1 month ago*
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I like that, because I can check whether game is interesting or not before buying full version.
Just like a demos (although I can check my playtime and add it to account so +1 for that).

Be honest now - you complain only because you added all free junk to your account and now you are frustrated because you have to clean this mess xD

What annoys me is "prologue games" sold for price of a game without mentioning anywhere that they are just more or less jjust paid demos (except some pissed off users in the reviews).
Like: Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms

1 month ago*
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Totally wrong assumption, check my first reply.

1 month ago
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My bad. Although now I also know that e-mail is enough to make you really mad xD

View attached image.
1 month ago
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Very yes.

1 month ago
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In my library I only add prologues that I find VERY interesting to really see what the gameplay is like. Otherwise, they seem terrible to me. I hate demos and prologues, because I dislike incomplete gameplay experiences.

1 month ago
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You != gamers. It might be as easy as that. Prologue just means that if you try the demo you aren't forced to re-play the first 'level' again which sucks way more than playing the free demo before playing the actual game.

1 month ago
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