In the anticipation of a game that is sometimes years away, arguments will erupt about its quality, often hinging on such damning empirical evidence like screenshots and whether they were faked or not. Massive armies of the overstimulated who have nothing better to do will swarm websites like Gamestop and NeoGAF and Amazon leaving comments about a game that they haven’t played, and likely isn’t even finished yet. Meanwhile, our favorite video game news outlets will be given their monthly ration of screenshots to post, and the whole process begins again. This is how the machine works. And video game culture at large not only accepts it, they love it.
Back in the early days of PC Gaming, demos were essential for getting the word out about a game. This is how the Shareware scene started. Publishers would release the first mission or chapter of a game for free, and you would have to pay to play the rest of it. These chapters were often made up of sub-missions, and provided enough content to be classified as a game in itself. For a while, this was enough to support a fledgling game development community and allowed it to compete with the big studios and their boxed games available on store shelves.
– Andrew S., “The Video Game Demo“