Since its microconsole launched last year, Ouya has been experimenting with different ways of working with developers -- and presenting their games to consumers, including ditching the "free-to-try" requirement and improving purchase options.
Now, word comes to Gamasutra that the company is testing a much bigger, more fundamental change to its ecosystem: an "all-can-eat" subscription service.
A developer has provided Gamasutra with an email from Ouya's developer relations team that explains the new pilot program -- a which it calls a "very limited test" of "an all-you-can-eat, everything-is-free, 12-month game subscription." Another Ouya developer confirmed to us that they got the same email.
According to the email, developers will be compensated as normal when these "all-you-can-eat" users "purchase" their games; the wording suggests that in-app purchases of consumable items are not included as free "purchases" during this test-run. There is no information in the email about the price of the subscription to the Ouya owners who take part in it, nor how widespread the test will be.
Developers whose games are offered in the test are asked to not attempt to change the price of their games to take advantage of the promotion -- and if they wish to do so, are required discuss this with Ouya staff directly.
It is unclear if all Ouya owners or just a subset will be invited to test the subscription service, how much it will cost them, or whether it will be limited to Ouya's own console or span its games service, which has moved to other Android microconsole devices.
Gamasutra has reached out to Ouya for comment on this new test initiative.
Here's the text of the email sent to its developer in full:
We have a new program we’re about to test that we want to share with you. In our efforts to to continue to learn more about our gamers and their purchase habits, we are going to run a very limited test on a new pricing model -- an all-you-can-eat, everything-is-free, 12-month game subscription.
The subscription will apply to all entitlements (one time purchases) in the Marketplace under $30. Consumables (in-game, multiple purchasable items) will NOT be included. Please note, during this test, there will be NO change to how you get paid -- in other words, if anyone with the pass “purchases” your game, you still get your 70 percent. We ask that you please respect this test, and not try to “game” the program by raising the price of your entitlement. We know that you would never do this -- but the lawyers made us write this ;). If you would like to change your price, please send an email to [private email address reacted] so that you can discuss it with your trusted Dev Relations team. We do reserve the right to remove any game from the Marketplace that we feel is abusing the system during this test.
To reiterate, this is just a test that will help us understand our gamers better and provide valuable insight on whether some sort of an OUYA subscription, in this form or another, makes sense in the future.
Thanks again for all your support and please do send any questions or concerns to [private email address reacted].
The bestselling Ouya game under its traditional buy-and-play model was Matt Thorson's Towerfall, which as of April had sold 7,000 copies and grossed the developer roughly $105,000 on that platform.
UPDATE: A link for the "All Access Pass" is live on Ouya's web store. The pass costs $59.99 and offers 12 months of free access to any Ouya game that costs less than $30 as well as downloadable and unlockable content. As reported previously, in-app purchases of consumable items are excluded.
The webpage instructs purchasers of the pass to "Start 'buying' games and unlocks that you want. Anything covered by the pass will show up as a whopping $0.00!" The page also notes that the offer is limited both in time and in quantity.
Here's the small print:
The OUYA All-Access pass applies to one-time purchases under $30, such as full game unlocks and level-pack add-ons. In-game purchases that enhance gameplay, and that can be done more than once, such as extra lives, potions, power-ups, etc, are not included. OUYA reserves the right to remove from the Marketplace any game or gamer that we feel is abusing the system during the duration of this program. Non-refundable.
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