Basic Features for Premium Prices
Contributed by DJMMT
Recently I read a news story that PlayStation is planning to require all developers to include two hour time trials of their games for PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers for any games that retail for more than $34 MSRP. My immediate response to this news was “Yes!, But also no . . .”
I haven’t previously written about the new PS+ merger with PS Now and the new subscription plans. I had considered it but ultimately decided I didn’t want to devote an entire post to the subject. I actually have a lot of thoughts on different aspects of the new plans and do plan to discuss some of them in future posts. But generally speaking I’ll say that I think it’s a good thing for PS Now to merge with PS+ but I am not happy with the pricing or feature divisions among these plans.
I am a big proponent of demos. I actually prefer time trials to demos, but functionally I consider them the same thing. A time trial is just a really honest demo, because it features the beginning of the game rather than a curated experience that allows developers to only display the game’s best parts. I have absolutely played both betas and demos that tricked me into buying a game that I ultimately regretted purchasing, because the experience of playing the curated content didn’t accurately present the general experience of the game. I can’t say that I’ve experienced that phenomenon with a game trial.
The idea of every AAA title having a two-hour gameplay trial is awesome to me. Personally, I think every game should be required to have a playable demo, but the more expensive ones is a good start. I support this initiative 100% and I’ve written about my views on demos several times in the past. Games have only gotten more expensive over time. And even if that wasn’t the case, consumers should be able to make informed decisions when purchasing a game. You can hear part of a song before purchasing it. You can read a few pages of a book before purchasing it. In many cases, you can watch part of a TV show or movie before purchasing it. The ability to try a game before buying it should not be seen as an unreasonable request.
I know that many developers will say they’re against game trials and demos, because they lower sales. Yes, demos do lower sales. Which is the entire point of demos. They’re meant to inform end users about a product so they can decide if they want to buy it. A person choosing not to buy a game after playing a demo is not the demo failing the developer. It’s the demo doing its job by informing the consumer. If a person didn’t purchase your game after playing the demo, it means they weren’t tricked into buying something they ultimately didn’t want. That’s a good thing.
I do understand that for many indie titles that are shorter, this can be a problem, because people might beat their game within the trial period. We have definitely seen this on Steam with their refund policy. That’s why I think PlayStation putting an MSRP minimum of $34 isn’t a terrible idea. Because if your game is $34 and can be beaten in two hours, then I’m sorry but I don’t think your game should cost $34. We can discuss the value of art all day, but these are consumer products and many consumers can’t afford to spend that much on so little content. But that’s a discussion for a different post. The point is that I absolutely don’t want to see developers lose out on sales because people were able to finish their games during the trial period, but I absolutely think all games should have some form of try before you buy service.
The one thing I dislike about this game trial service concept from PlayStation is the fact that it will be locked behind the Premium tier of the new PS+. For me, I was never planning on going Premium. My plan was to stick to the Essential tier while I’m still on PS4 and then upgrade to Extra once I upgraded to the PS5. I have reasons for that, but they aren’t really important for this discussion. But with this new trial benefit, I’m suddenly considering the Premium tier. But that’s not really right when you think about it. We shouldn’t have to pay for game trials at all. I’ve already said that every consumer should be able to test games before they purchase them. To lock such a benefit behind a premium paywall is ethically dubious to say the least. Why do the people with the most money to burn exclusively get the most assistance in not throwing money away? Though I hadn’t considered going for the Premium tier, this specific service now makes me consider it. Which, to be clear, is entirely why they did it this way. They know the Premium tier isn’t that great compared to the Extra tier, unless you just really want to play old games, which I personally don’t. The ability to try every AAA title before I buy it should be a standard benefit of the subscription service’s basic tier, if not a free service provided for all users in general.
This is where we are today. Basic services that everyone should be entitled to as consumers are locked behind paywalls. And not just basic service paywalls, but the premium subscription tiers. These companies are rolling in profit, constantly strong-arming smaller developers, and nickel and diming end users with fees only to then add more insult to injury.
I’m really happy to see Sony make developers give consumers the ability to test their products before buying them. The age of demos making a comeback is an overall good thing for gamers. Even if not everyone uses such a service, the fact that it’s available should be seen as a good thing. But limiting who can actually get access to the demos behind a top tier paywall is exactly the opposite of what needs to happen in the gaming industry today. By all rights, that should be an Essential tier PS+ benefit. But at least it’s a small step in the right direction for consumers.