What just happened? Steam has been one of the last major game platforms to lack a mechanism for free trials outside of EA Play subscriptions until now. With the time-limited Dead Space trial, Valve follows other large game companies like EA, Ubisoft, Sony, and Nintendo.

Electronic Arts is letting anyone play the Dead Space remake on PC free for 90 minutes until May 29. The timed demo is a first for Steam, even though publishers have long allowed such trials on consoles and other PC game launchers.

Click the "Play Now" button on the game's Steam client screen to install and start the Dead Space trial before the promotion ends at 1 PM EDT on Monday, May 29. Unlike a typical demo, the timed variant downloads the entire game, so customers who decide to purchase it can immediately continue playing after the time limit expires. Dead Space and many other EA games are also currently on sale. Recent titles like FIFA 23 and NFS Unbound are 70 percent off.

Steam's two-hour time limit for full refunds is arguably similar to a timed trial. However, a self-enclosed format like this is arguably a smoother experience since no money changes hands. Future demos could also have different lengths to avoid players who often circumvent the refund system through speed runs. The 90-minute Dead Space time limit is suspiciously just over the game's world-record one hour and 44-minute completion time, according to Speedrun.com.

Most other game trial systems are tied to subscriptions, including EA Play, which offers a small selection of 10-hour demos on Steam, EA's client, PlayStation, and Xbox. Strangely, EA is currently not offering a timed Dead Space demo on other platforms, including its own. The only way to play it through EA Play is to use an EA Play Pro subscription through the EA launcher.

Sony and Nintendo also offer trials along with their subscriptions. Sony has a vast selection of time-limited demos for PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers, while Nintendo Online subscribers must wait for trial games during occasional events.

The most liberal try-before-you-buy system from a major game company is Ubisoft's. Testing the waters of major Ubisoft releases like Far Cry 6 or Rainbow Six Extraction requires no subscription. Some, like Extraction, are time-limited, but others, like Far Cry 6, implement progress limits.

Ubisoft offers its demos on every platform except Steam, even for games available on Steam like the recently released Far Cry 6. With Valve's introduction of timed trials for the general Steam user base, perhaps Ubisoft will stop excluding demos from the platform, even though it still delays game releases on Steam.