March 22, 2023

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Timed gaming experiences are now a requirement for some PlayStation developers

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Sony has begun communicating with developers about its plans to try timed games for PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers. According to sources who spoke to Game Developer, developers working on games that cost $34 or more (€33 in Europe, ¥4,000 in Japan) are now required to create time-limited game experiences for their games. These trial versions should be for at least two hours.

Games that cost less than those amounts are not required to create time-limited experiences, according to the new policy. The plan comes after Sony announced PlayStation Plus Extended Subscription Options.

Several developers have been notified of the new policy via the Sony Developer Portal update. Our sources indicated that they have not received any further communication about this change.

The good news is that these requirements are not retroactive and do not apply to upcoming PlayStation VR games. The less cool news is that if you’re a developer planning to release it to the PlayStation Store in the future, you now need to dedicate the time and resources to creating these new timed experiences.

There is some flexibility as part of Sony’s policy. Developers have up to three months after launching their games on the PlayStation Store for a timed beta release. Trials must also be available to PlayStation Plus Premium users for at least 12 months.

Sony is also open to releasing dedicated game demos in place of time-limited gaming trials, but they will only be approved on a case-by-case basis. Developers also still have the freedom to publish weekends, game experiences, or custom demos that are accessible to all PlayStation owners.

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This new policy appears to be a mixed bag for all developers planning to release on PlayStation. On the other hand, it’s possible that big publishers like Activision Blizzard, 2K Games or Sony’s in-house studios have the resources to create these time-limited gaming experiences and take advantage of PlayStation Plus Premium subscriptions.

On the other hand, if your game is hovering just above $34, you are probably working with fewer resources than your competition, and two hours can be a huge part of your game content. Smart developers can maximize these experiences in the chances of acquiring new players, but with no promise of payment at the end, they may be risking big effort for a limited return.

A survey of the PlayStation Store shows that very few games go above $34, so the group of developers most affected by the policy are those released at $39.99. A number of single games from mid-sized developers dominate that list, including spider studios GridvaleAsobo A Plague Tale: Innocenceand Ember Lab’s Qena: The Bridge of Souls.

Game demos have seen a slight revival in the past few years, from “intros” released on Steam to limited-time demos given during events like the Summer Games Festival or Valve’s seasonal Steam game festivals. It’s interesting to see Sony revive it as a (relatively) subscriber class.

Sony has not responded to our inquiries about its new policy at press time. We will update our story if they come back to us.