Sony has begun communicating with developers about their timed game trial plans for PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers. According to sources speaking to Game Developer, developers working on games costing $ 34 or more (€ 33 in Europe, ￥ 4000 in Japan) are now required to create time-limited game samples of their games. These trials must be at least two hours long.
Games that cost less than these amounts are not required to create time-limited trial versions, according to the new policy. The plan follows Sony’s announcement of extended subscription options for PlayStation Plus.
Many developers were informed about the new policy via an update to Sony’s developer portal. Our sources stated that they had not received any other communication about this change.
The good news is that these requirements have no retroactive effect and do not apply to upcoming PlayStation VR titles. The less good news is that if you’re a developer planning to release on PlayStation Store in the future, you now need to budget time and resources to create these new timed trials.
There is some flexibility as part of Sony’s policy. Developers have up to three months after their game launch in PlayStation Store to release their timed trial. Trials are also only required to be available to PlayStation Plus Premium users for at least 12 months.
Sony is also open to releasing custom game demos instead of time-limited game samples, but these will only be approved on a case-by-case basis. Developers are also still free to release free weekends, game trials or custom demos that all PlayStation owners can access.
This new policy seems to be a mixed bag for any developer planning to release on PlayStation. On the one hand, major publishers like Activision Blizzard, 2K Games, or Sony’s in-house studios are likely to have the resources needed to create these time-limited game trials, and will be able to take advantage of PlayStation Plus Premium subscriptions.
On the other hand, if your game hovers just above the $ 34 price point, you are likely to work with fewer resources than your competitors, and two hours can be a significant part of your game’s content. Experienced developers can maximize these attempts at opportunities to acquire new players, but without promises of payout in the end, it can risk a lot of work for limited dividends.
A PlayStation Store scan shows that very few games are strictly on the $ 34 mark, so the group of developers most affected by the policy are those who publish at the $ 39.99 level. A number of single-player games from mid-sized developers dominate that list, including Spider Studios’ GreedAsobo’s A Plague Speech: Innocenceand Ember Lab’s Kena: The Bridge of the Spirits.
Game demos have had a bit of a resurgence in the last few years, from “prologues” released on Steam to time-limited demos offered during events like the Summer Games Festival or Valve’s seasonal Steam Game Festivals. It’s interesting to see Sony revive them as a level for (relatively) high-rolling subscribers.
Sony did not respond to our inquiries about their new policy at the time of publication. We will update our story if they return to us.