author: Darius Matusiak
PS Plus Premium With Mandatory Demos is Ace Up Sony's Sleeve
PS Plus Premium has a few things in common with Game Pass, but Sony keeps one ace up its sleeve. We're talking about demo versions of games, a thing coveted by modern gamers, but also raising a few buts.
Next month, Sony is launching a refreshed version of PS Plus subscriptions. Their recent announcement aroused fairly cool emotions in general. Especially Game Pass subscribers pointed out that the offer not very competitive compared to Microsoft's service. Later, news broke about an interesting requirement that Sony allegedly imposed on companies that wanted to sell games more expensive than $34. In these cases, it would be mandatory to provide a two-hour trial version of the game, which would be available in the most expensive plan – the Premium subscription. It turns out, however, that it's not the whole story.
We have dug out Sony's guidelines for game developers regarding these demos, which directly states that no additional work is required from developers. The demos would be prepared by the PS Store itself, if the producers do not wish to create it on their own and make it available within three months after the release. Hence, the argument that Sony is trying to force additional work from dev teams in order to make its offer more attractive is false. Which doesn't change the fact that demos of virtually all big, multi-platform titles would be a huge advantage in the offer of the Japanese company.
This means that soon, the holders of the Premium PlayStation subscription, in addition to a few games to play every month and access to many titles from the PlayStation back catalog, will be able to test every AAA and AA production before buying them. Such as, for example, Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, FIFA, Need for Speed or other games costing $34 (or 33 €). So far, the only similar solution has been provided by Steam on PC, namely the refund option after purchasing the full version of the game. Maybe it's not as sexy as Gamepass' option to play the full game from the release day, but it's certainly something that we won't find in Microsoft's service, and at the same time a clever way of distinguishing Sony's service.
It's definitely a move in the interest of the players. The publishers will likely consider the two-hour exhibits of their games much more important in convincing the players to pay them any money than even the most positive review. And despite Sony's willingness to take on the obligation to prepare such demos, many game developers will surely opt to create them on their own. Why? Sony will likely resort to some sort of an automated process for this, which would simply block access to the full version after 2 hours – a solution that we've already seen many times during various free weekends with various games. The publisher, however, would be able prepare a special version, presenting a specific portion of their game, not revealing too much of the story.
What about smaller studios, often making games that are short by definition? Simply, almost none of these games will exceed the price threshold of $34. So if anyone would be tempted to price their short and sweet game at, say, $40, they'd have to make a difficult decision here. They will either be forced to provide a demo version, or lower the price to the magic $33.99. Considering Sony's 30% commission, this could be a hard nut to crack for some developers. Ultimately, the players will either pay less, or be able to see if the game is really worth the buck.
What's the catch?
The requirement to provide demo versions available in the PS Store is not only conceived in the interests of players – it also gives publishers some leeway. In addition to Sony's offer to do any extra work related to preparation of a two-hour demo, VR games shall also be excluded from the requirement. The most important condition, however, is the allowance for up to three months of delay in providing the demo version after the release day, which may well open the door to some abuses. First of all, it's enough time to patch up a botched release – which is seemingly the very practice that Sony wishes to curb with the introduction of mandatory demos.
We don't know yet what the penalty shall be for failing to provide a demo version. Presumably, Sony will just release their own demo version. Publishers unsure of the success of their works will likely be eager to postpone the date of the demo's publication until the end of the three-moth period, rather than open access to it on the day of release. We should not have to worry about a sudden flooding of optional-VR games either, because only exclusively-VR titles are exempt from the requirement.
Like demo discs of yore
Anyway, even if the new Sony subscription offer doesn't satisfy everyone, it's different enough from those already available that it has a chance to generate some positive trends. It will grant access not only a large library of classic titles from previous generations of PlayStation, but also restore the old fad of game demos purchased along with gaming magazines, usually featuring pieces of several different games. The requirement of creating demos itself may in the long run help to improve the technical quality of games. Will it really be so? I won't be surprised if it won't, but only time will tell.