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 have a wholesale cost of $34 or higher (€33 in Europe, ￥4000 in Japan) are now required to create time-limited game trials of their games. (Update: This number was previously referred to as the retail pricing, it has been updated to reflect that it refers to wholesale pricing.)
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 wholesale $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.
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.
Update 4/26: A previous version of this story stated that this new policy applied to games that cost $34 at retail. We've updated the article to clarify that the amount refers to the wholesale price of games submitted to the PlayStation Store, and have reached out to Sony to for further details on pricing.