Sony now requires PlayStation developers to include a two-hour trial for games over $34

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,491   +1,040
Staff member
In context: Sony's imminent launch of its PlayStation Plus tiered subscription rates brings drastic changes to the way players manage their subscriptions on the platform. But subscribers are not the only ones subject to the restructuring. Developers will have to adapt too.

Anonymous sources told Game Developer that studios planning to launch games priced higher than $34 must have a minimum two-hour trial version. Sony intends to include these in its PlayStation Plus Premium tier. Developers with games that meet Sony's criteria must keep the timed trial active for 12 months after the title's release.

Alternatively, developers may pitch a custom demo instead of a timed version of the full game, but these are subject to Sony's approval. The insiders say they only noticed the change when signing into the Sony developer portal. The rule only applies to new titles moving forward. Older games are not required to have free trials regardless of pricing. Of course, all studios are still free to release customized demos, game trials, free-to-play weekends, or other promotions to all players at their discretion.

The free trials could help get a title to more players who might be on the fence about a game. Triple-A titles with tens of hours of content should benefit greatly. However, smaller studios looking to get $35 or more for shorter games might suffer from the rule.

Development costs would increase since the policy would logically require studios to release a timed version to premium users and a normal one to the PlayStation Store. While big companies like Activision and 2K Games can easily absorb this extra production cost, smaller indy developers might find it more challenging to comply.

Sony announced its new subscription rates last month. Those who currently only pay for PlayStation Plus should remain primarily unaffected since the lowest $ 60-per-year tier is the same price for everything they get now. Subscription rates for those exclusively using the PlayStation Now platform (without a PS+ subscription) will double since PS Now is no longer a standalone service.

Adding free trials to the package helps justify the premium service's price. Sony hopes players see try-before-you-buy as an added value. More importantly, the move should help Sony better compete with Game Pass, which doesn't have timed demos but does have day-one releases for Xbox exclusives.

Image credit: Reddit

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m4a4

Posts: 2,887   +3,695
TechSpot Elite
...And Sony can't, at the least, support an OS controlled timed trial (that devs can use instead)?

All of this just feels stupid. Stupid tier names (like Xbox generation names), can't bother with day-one releases like their competitor, and now they put the burden on developers to create demo's.

I swear, Sony is just not trying here...
 

yRaz

Posts: 4,400   +5,124
Wow! A whole two hours. One can surely tell whether a game is :poop: in that amount of time. :rolleyes:
I remember when demos were typically the first level of a singleplayer game and usually 1 or 2 multiplayer maps. This is quite a demo but I'd consider this a positive step in that direction. With the dumpsterfire that is basically any industry right now I'll take any progress we can get.

And keep in mind, this likely wont stay on playstation. Once the developers have made a "demo" for the playstation they really don't have any reason NOT to release it for other platforms. The fact that they wouldn't release one something they already created would be a major red flag.

Also, the $35 limit for 2 hours? No game that offers a significant chunk of it's gameplay is worth more than $20 to me. Games are worth, at most, about $5/hr to me. Considering that I paid full price for Skyrim and Skyrim SE and have over 600 hours between the 2 of them, 10 cents an hour is money well spent. I Spend around 100 hours a month playing ESO so I certainly get my $15/m out of them.
 
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Dd663

I remember when demos were typically the first level of a singleplayer game and usually 1 or 2 multiplayer maps. This is quite a demo but I'd consider this a positive step in that direction. With the dumpsterfire that is basically any industry right now I'll take any progress we can get.

And keep in mind, this likely wont stay on playstation. Once the developers have made a "demo" for the playstation they really don't have any reason NOT to release it for other platforms. The fact that they wouldn't release one something they already created would be a major red flag.

Also, the $35 limit for 2 hours? No game that offers a significant chunk of it's gameplay is worth more than $20 to me. Games are worth, at most, about $5/hr to me. Considering that I paid full price for Skyrim and Skyrim SE and have over 600 hours between the 2 of them, 10 cents an hour is money well spent. I Spend around 100 hours a month playing ESO so I certainly get my $15/m out of them.
Not all game hours are created equal. You could spend 500 hours playing a big, empty open world game where most of that time is spent traveling and doing repetitive tasks and quests, or you could spend 4 hours on a short, tightly woven 2D platformer where every moment is rewarding instead of dull. I'd rather do the latter. There's also replay value to consider.

I understand the sentiment, though. I almost never feel spending $60 is justified on a game, and knowing that a game is particularly short would make me even more hesitant. And yeah, most games that only last two hours shouldn't be $35 or more.
 

NintPlayBox

Posts: 54   +43
Sony charging for a subscription to access a 2 hour demo it would be like paying for Netflix to access just 25 minutes of a 3 hour movie.

Their strategy is laughably stupid.
 
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Dd663

Sony charging for a subscription to access a 2 hour demo it would be like paying for Netflix to access just 25 minutes of a 3 hour movie.

Their strategy is laughably stupid.
Well, I don't think they're trying to get people to subscribe just to be able to use the two-hour trials. It's supposed to be an added incentive on top of what's already there.
 

NintPlayBox

Posts: 54   +43
Well, I don't think they're trying to get people to subscribe just to be able to use the two-hour trials. It's supposed to be an added incentive on top of what's already there.
Well that "incentive" as you call it should be available on all tiers while offering the FULL games on the most expensive tier.

As it stands it's no better than paying for a demo when demos should always be free.
 

Lounds

Posts: 1,119   +1,015
Sony charging for a subscription to access a 2 hour demo it would be like paying for Netflix to access just 25 minutes of a 3 hour movie.

Their strategy is laughably stupid.
Sony are in the model of making money, Microsoft are running Xbox gamepass at a loss.
 

NintPlayBox

Posts: 54   +43
Sony are in the model of making money, Microsoft are running Xbox gamepass at a loss.
So what you are saying is Microsoft is willing to lose money as long as they keep gamers happy with GamePass while Sony is only there to make money while screwing the consumer with demos.

Totally agree!
 

Lounds

Posts: 1,119   +1,015
So what you are saying is Microsoft is willing to lose money as long as they keep gamers happy with GamePass while Sony is only there to make money while screwing the consumer with demos.

Totally agree!
It's to gain market share, they want to create the Netflix of gaming. It'll be absolutely **** for developers. There's no way £10 a month is profitable for the amount of games and day one releases of brand new games that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make.
 

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,491   +1,040
Staff member
There seems to be some confusion here.
Not all game hours are created equal...

I understand the sentiment, though. I almost never feel spending $60 is justified on a game, and knowing that a game is particularly short would make me even more hesitant. And yeah, most games that only last two hours shouldn't be $35 or more.
Sony charging for a subscription to access a 2 hour demo it would be like paying for Netflix to access just 25 minutes of a 3 hour movie.

Their strategy is laughably stupid.
Sony is requiring any game that is over $34 to have a two-hour trial for Premium subscribers. Play the game for two hours, if you like it, buy it. It's not likely that any game over $34 is only going to be two hours of content.

Sony's not trying to make this feature a Netflix-like subscription. It already has that with the PS Now on-demand aspect of the tier and the growing PlayStation Collection it has had since the PS5 launch. Two-hour trials are just an extra perk to entice level one subs to upgrade to premium. The same games with two-hour trials will still be available to regular subscribers, just without the trial part.

I hope that clears up any unintended confusion.
 
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Dd663

There seems to be some confusion here.


Sony is requiring any game that is over $34 to have a two-hour trial for Premium subscribers. Play the game for two hours, if you like it, buy it. It's not likely that any game over $34 is only going to be two hours of content.

Sony's not trying to make this feature a Netflix-like subscription. It already has that with the PS Now on-demand aspect of the tier and the growing PlayStation Collection it has had since the PS5 launch. Two-hour trials are just an extra perk to entice level one subs to upgrade to premium. The same games with two-hour trials will still be available to regular subscribers, just without the trial part.

I hope that clears up any unintended confusion.

My post was addressing this statement from yRaz.
Also, the $35 limit for 2 hours? No game that offers a significant chunk of it's gameplay [in that time] is worth more than $20 to me.

As well as what you said here:
However, smaller studios looking to get $35 or more for shorter games might suffer from the rule.

I know games at that price or higher aren't likely to be as short as two hours, but some might come close, and some might be possible to beat in less than that if you're skilled.
 

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,491   +1,040
Staff member
My post was addressing this statement from yRaz.


As well as what you said here:


I know games at that price or higher aren't likely to be as short as two hours, but some might come close, and some might be possible to beat in less than that if you're skilled.
Agreed. There are certain games that can be zipped right through. I think for the most part though, those types of short games ring in at around $20. However, a small indy studio with a six-hour game might need to sell it for more than $34 just to break even. When also tasked with adding a two-hour trial to it, it might push them to the point that they have to raise the price. Then people, like many here have noted, will be ticked off that they paid $40 for a game that was only six hours of content. Bad reviews because of that could potentially put the studio out of business at the worst and kill sales at the least.

As someone else stated, the real solution here is to come up with an OS-based API that developers could use to add a timer to their game with a few lines of code rather than building the trial by themselves. As a small developer I would be of the attitude, "Sony, if you want timed trials, make it easy for me, else I'll go distribute on other platforms."

That said, I'm certain Sony isn't trying to screw over indy studios here. This rule is obviously aimed at bigger developers, that are most of the time charging well over $34 per game. It's just that the smaller ones might get caught in the crossfire.
 
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Dd663

Agreed. There are certain games that can be zipped right through. I think for the most part though, those types of short games ring in at around $20. However, a small indy studio with a six-hour game might need to sell it for more than $34 just to break even. When also tasked with adding a two-hour trial to it, it might push them to the point that they have to raise the price. Then people, like many here have noted, will be ticked off that they paid $40 for a game that was only six hours of content. Bad reviews because of that could potentially put the studio out of business at the worst and kill sales at the least.

As someone else stated, the real solution here is to come up with an OS-based API that developers could use to add a timer to their game with a few lines of code rather than building the trial by themselves. As a small developer I would be of the attitude, "Sony, if you want timed trials, make it easy for me, else I'll go distribute on other platforms."

That said, I'm certain Sony isn't trying to screw over indy studios here. This rule is obviously aimed at bigger developers, that are most of the time charging well over $34 per game. It's just that the smaller ones might get caught in the crossfire.
Well said. I also agree that this is something Sony should automate or provide simple tooling for.

I'm curious as to how they arrived at the cutoff figure that they did. Perhaps they were trying to find a sweet spot where developers couldn't just lower the price slightly to avoid the trial requirement but also where not too many shorter, smaller games would get caught in the net. I think they could probably stand to make the starting price for the requirement higher still, though.
 

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,491   +1,040
Staff member
Well said. I also agree that this is something Sony should automate or provide simple tooling for.

I'm curious as to how they arrived at the cutoff figure that they did. Perhaps they were trying to find a sweet spot where developers couldn't just lower the price slightly to avoid the trial requirement but also where not too many shorter, smaller games would get caught in the net. I think they could probably stand to make the starting price for the requirement higher still, though.
I think they actually did do that. Although pricing is not a set rule it seems most follow a $10 increment, so $10 - $20 - $30 - $40 - etc. So they stuck it right in there at $35 to keep lower cost/content games that go for about $30 safe while giving higher priced/content games a gap large enough to make them think twice about dropping their game $5.