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Timed game trials are now a requirement for some PlayStation developers

Sony has begun communicating with developers about its plans for timed game trials for PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers. According to sources speaking to Game Developer, developers working on games that cost $34 or higher (€33 in Europe, ¥4000 in Japan) are now required to create time-limited game trials of their games. These trial versions must be at least two hours long.

Games that cost lower than those amounts are not required to create limited-time trials, according to the new policy. The plan follows Sony’s announcement for expanded subscription options for PlayStation Plus. 

Many developers were informed about the new policy via an update to Sony’s developer portal. Our sources indicated they had not received any other communication about this change.

The good news is, these requirements are not retroactive and do not apply to upcoming PlayStation VR titles. The less-great news is that if you’re a developer planning to release on the 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 until three months after their games launch on the 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 trials, but these will only be approved on a case-by-case basis. Developers are also still free to publish free weekends, game trials, or custom demos that can be accessed by all PlayStation owners. 

This new policy seems to be a mixed bag for all developers planning to release on PlayStation. On the one hand, larger publishers like Activision Blizzard, 2K Games, or Sony’s in-house studios will likely have the resources needed to create these time-limited game trials, and stand to benefit from PlayStation Plus Premium subscriptions.

On the other hand, if your game is hovering just over the $34 price point, you’re probably working with fewer resources than your competitors, and two hours may be a significant chunk of your game’s content. Savvy developers can maximize those trials into opportunities to acquire new players, but with no promise of payout at the end it could risk being a lot of work for limited payoff.

A scan of the PlayStation store shows that very few games are strictly sitting at the $34 mark, so the group of developers most impacted by the policy are those releasing at the $39.99 tier. A number of single-player games from mid-sized developers dominate that list, including Spider Studios’ Greedfall, Asobo’s A Plague Tale: Innocence, and Ember Lab’s Kena: Bridge of Spirits.

Game demos have had a bit of a resurgence in the last few years, from “prologues” released on Steam to limited-time demos offered during events like Summer Games Festival or Valve’s seasonal Steam Game Festivals. It is interesting to see Sony revive them as a tier for (relatively) high-rolling subscribers. 

Sony did not respond to our queries about its new policy by the time of publication. We will update our story if they get back to us.

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