Report: Some developers must offer free game trials to PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers

Jon Yelenic, Thursday, April 28th, 2022 5:20 pm

Sony will allegedly require developers to give free trials of their games to PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers, Game Developer reported on Tuesday. According to the policy, which was communicated through Sony’s developer portal, games with wholesale costs of at least $34 must offer a free trial version–which cannot be less than two hours long–to PS Plus Premium subscribers at no additional cost. 

According to the report, developers will have up to three months following a game’s launch to release a trial, which must be available for a minimum of 12 months.

However, there are a few exemptions from this policy, claimed the report. For starters, any game with a wholesale cost of less than $34 is not required to offer a trial, nor are any titles previously released on the PlayStation Store. Additionally, PlayStation VR titles–currently released or not–are also exempt from this rule.

So far, Sony has only communicated this policy to developers via its developer portal; no public announcement has been made yet, nor has Sony commented publicly on the leaked policy. Given PS Plus Premium’s impending launch in June, it seems likely an official announcement might not be too far off. 

Following the publication of Game Developer’s report, the policy raised quite a few eyebrows among developers due to the implication that they might have to devote both extra resources and work hours to crafting a demo that only premium subscribers on one platform would get to play. However, Kotaku’s Ethan Gach reported on Wednesday that the PlayStation Store team would be the party in charge of putting together the trials, meaning the extra workload shouldn’t fall on the developers.

However, there are other reasons for game developers to be concerned. The existence of a trial doesn’t necessarily guarantee a purchase, and there’s no evidence that Sony is going to share its revenues from the subscription service with those who are being forced to offer trials. While it’s hard to imagine this doing too much damage to large companies like Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, or Electronic Arts, it’s clear how this policy could negatively impact independent developers, especially considering how long the trials are required to be.

Many independent games are on the short side. For instance, Sloclap’s kung fu brawler, Sifu, is only about 10 hours long, and it can be even shorter if you quickly grasp the game’s combat mechanics. The Pathless, a PlayStation console exclusive developed by studio Giant Squid, only runs about five hours. By taking a two-hour chunk out of such games, it’s possible that these trials might end up giving so much away about particular titles that they ward off potential buyers–all while game studios receive no revenue from the trials they’re required to offer.

It’s worth noting that PS Plus Premium doesn’t launch until June 13. Between now and then, it’s possible that Sony could make changes to the policy to make it more accommodating to independent developers, but there’s no assurance that it will. © 2024 | All Rights Reserved.