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Ouya ditching problematic 'free-to-try' requirement
Ouya ditching problematic 'free-to-try' requirement
March 24, 2014 | By Kris Graft

March 24, 2014 | By Kris Graft
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    24 comments
More: Console/PC, Smartphone/Tablet, Business/Marketing



Ouya said last week during Game Developers Conference that the microconsole company would be dropping its problematic free-to-try requirement for Ouya games next month, according to a blog post.

While the idea of having all Ouya games come with some sort of free component (be it a demo or limited version of a full game) is appealing to consumers, it was a hassle for some game developers who needed to spend extra time and resources (and therefore money) to abide by the rule.

By dropping the requirement, game developers should have an easier time bringing existing Android games to the Android-based Ouya. Developers still have the option to have a free-to-try/play component if they choose to.

"When we started Ouya, we originally decided against [letting devs choose to have a free component]," said Ouya's Bob Mills. "Free-to-try seemed like an obvious choice for an open platform. We knew it appealed to gamers, but it turned out many devs had trouble meeting the requirement, didnít want to make a demo, or werenít sure how to monetize their game."

Kellee Santiago, who's head of developer relations at Ouya, said the requirement will be officially dropped in April, according to a Polygon report. Ouya also changed an exclusivity policy so that developers may now launch Ouya games at the same time as the PC version of a given game.


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Comments


E Zachary Knight
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That's a shame. I guess I will be buying far fewer games on the Ouya in the future. I bought a number of games after trying the free demo. Many games I would never had considered buying at all without it.

Personally, I think that was the biggest draw for me and protected the Ouya from much of the F2P and race to the bottom stuff happening on other stores. Now, price will be the key factor in deciding whether to get a game. If it is not cheap enough, I will likely not buy it.

Kujel s
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My exact sentiments.

Ian Fisch
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So you won't buy a potentially great game unless it's close to free?

E Zachary Knight
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I won't pay more than a certain amount for a game sight unseen. I rarely buy games on release day for full price. I often wait a considerable amount of time to let reviews and word of mouth convince me. Often, I don't get around to buying it until a Humble Bundle, Steam sale or GOG sale. I have limited amount of spending money and I want to make sure I get the most bang for my buck.

Kevin Clough
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I totally agree that I am more likely to buy something if I am able to try it, but don't you think the developer should be able to make the decision for themselves? A developer may not port a game to Ouya if they are forced to make major changes to it so then no one will be buying it.

E Zachary Knight
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Kevin,

They already had a choice. They could choose not to release on the Ouya, as they have been. I am sure that other consoles have annoying quirks in their requirements that a lot of devs just don't want to deal with. But they are there and you have to incorporate them.

The free trial portion was a major selling point of the console and one major thing that really set it apart in a good way from all other consoles out there.

But just like on any platform that does not allow for a free trial of a game, these devs are going to be focusing a lot more of their energy on price reductions to gain sales momentum.

E Zachary Knight
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I would like to add to my original comment with a couple of examples of why demos are beneficial for the consumer.

The first one is to help customers find gems they might not have been willing to buy otherwise. For example, I played a game on the Ouya called Super Mega Worm. I had never heard of it but was intrigued enough to download it. I played it and after about 10 minutes I bought the game. IT was incredibly awesome and am more than willing to support the developer in the future.

The second benefit is protection from hype. We all know stories of over-hyped games that fell flat. But there is often little protection from that hype. Demos are one way for customers to protect themselves. For example, one Ouya game was getting a lot of praise, Reaper. I thought, this must be a pretty good game and downloaded the demo. I then played it and after about 10 minutes I could not figure out what was so great about it. In fact, I was having a terrible experience. I found the UI completely unintuitive and near impossible to use. I found the action clumsy and floaty. So I saved myself about $6 and didn't buy it. Had I been forced to buy the game before being able to play it, I would have felt cheated and would have sought to get my money back.

Absent a demo, the only way to minimize the damage of the latter and increase the sales from the former is to lower the price dramatically.

Kujel s
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My experiences near perfectly match Zachary's.

Ian D'Aprix
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Open question; do you think game companies should be forced to release a demo component to be eligible for a platform?

I submit that there are games which would not benefit at all from this requirement. I doubt a game like Papers Please (Pope) contains the style of play appropriate for limited feature access. I also feel that some games, such as Proteus (Key & Kanaga), are too free-form or short to make a good demo. Maybe 95% of games could and would meet this requirement easily, but the other 5% would be out in the cold.

Having read the blog post I can see that Ouya is open to their development community's needs. I'm just surprised they didn't make this decision earlier. The game developer is a customer too, in a different way.

Dave Bellinger
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I think for what the Ouya was going for, as well as what it was selling in its Kickstarter campaign, it was a reasonable requirement. With the removal of this requirement, you've now removed an important component for the consumer, no doubt about it. I think they're hoping more talented devs will come to the console and make or port games that consumer won't think they need F2P content to put money into. Risky gamble that I don't think will pay off, but when the alternative is to just slowly let it die, it's the better idea I think.

That said, I think you're wrong about Papers, Please; by releasing a version with the first 5 days playable, for instance, I think fans would have been easily hooked, understood the narrative and what it was, understood the setting, and been salivating for more, no doubt in my mind. That's one specific example of course, but I really wanted to tackle that one :D

You're absolutely right in that there's a concern that amongst that 5% of games that sees difficulty meeting such a requirement, it may include those one in a million breakthrough concepts like Proteus. Off-hand I'd suggest timed-based demos for these types of titles you can get lost in, but I get your point of difficulty.

R. Hunter Gough
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heh. Papers Please DID release a WIP demo version (that had limited features and ended after a few days) several months before the full version. And it was that demo version that convinced me to get the full version.

Ian D'Aprix
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I didn't realize that. I have a hard time imagining a compelling demo of Papers Please but that's me.

James Coote
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I spent the last year and a bit cheerleading OUYA, and whenever I spoke to devs, this issue came up a lot. I think in some cases, devs used it as a convenient business-sounding excuse when actually they just didn't like OUYA for personal reasons. But for many, it was a genuine issue.

Hopefully now, developers will make the calculation that it only takes a day or two of developer time to port, making the break even sales target a lot more achievable considering the size of the platform.

Evan Combs
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Is it really that difficult to make a demo? I am not familiar with the specific qualifications, but I don't see how a simple time limit or limit on how many levels you can play. Sounds to me like people were just over thinking this.

Koray Hagen
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Making a demo version of a game is always an incurred cost regardless of how hard or easy it is. Developers shouldn't be arm locked into it, plain and simple.

Samuel Batista
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I don't see what's the problem here. If games that don't provide demos yield less revenues, developers will create demos. Giving developers more freedom won't hurt the marketplace in any way. Glad to see the OUYA team react to developer requests (for better or for worst).

Kenneth Blaney
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It isn't that the demo would hurt sales it is just that the time spent creating the demo wouldn't yield enough sales to justify the cost. Granted, this type of thinking was probably done without hard numbers and more of a gut feel "I'm bored of working on this game all the time, I just sort of want to be done with it" thought.

John Owens
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Actually the data does show that releasing a demo does hurt sales.

Jeff Alexander
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Demos have been found to severely impact the sales of games, at least on the Xbox 360.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=us6OPbYtKBM#t=624

Also, a free demo with a built-in facility to upgrade to the full version of the game (rather than forcing the player to go to the store and purchase the full version separately) is one of the things that may get your game flagged as illegal under proposed new child protection laws being debated by the UK's Office of Fair Trading (http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/consumer-enforcement/oft1506.pdf, page 22).

Long story short: it's looking impossible to use a demo to increase how many copies of your game sell.

E Zachary Knight
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Jeff,

Very interesting. I get the impression that he is talking about a need to deceive people to maximize sales. That seems wrong to me.

Sure, he says that games with Demos sell half of what games with a trailer sell, but that to me means that 50% of buyers were saved from buying a game they wouldn't enjoy. Why is that a bad thing?

Jeff Alexander
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I didn't say it was bad. I'm trying to bring more facts into the discussion so developers can make more informed decisions, rather than let it remain a back-and-forth anecdote-fest, where the only "evidence" people bring to the table is partial recollections of whether they personally ever bought a game because its demo changed their mind.

E Zachary Knight
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Jeff,

"I'm trying to bring more facts into the discussion so developers can make more informed decisions,"

That is great except that the numbers from that presentation were completely void of context. It may be true, but he could be comparing games that aren't even in each other's league to get that spread.

Kenneth Blaney
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That bit about being illegal under proposed laws in the UK is fascinating. I wonder if that pending law has been the proverbial last straw for OUYA ditching the requirement for free content.

Brian Stabile
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For all of those out there who think this will hurt sales, is it really "sight unseen"? A simple google search will reveal plenty of reviews, Let's Plays, etc... that let you get a feel of the game (and all the spoilers if you're so inclined) before you buy it.

Yes, for smaller-scale games, demos do indeed hurt sales. The reason being, a game with $0.99-$4.99 worth of content only has so many hours of enjoyment, and "noteworthy" parts, so making a demo is already giving the user too much of that value, that by the end of the demo, they may have felt they they've gotten the essence of the game, and there's no longer the need to get the full game. There was that article that stated that 70% of OUYA users had yet to buy a single game, as they all just played the demos. It works with large-scale games because there's so much more content to delve into beyond the surface of the demo. If something that cheap piques your interest for even a moment (and sure, watch a video or read a review or too if you're that budget-conscious), it's worth a purchase. A $17 movie ticket provides you with 1.5-2.5 hours of entertainment. A $20 concert ticket provides you with 3-5 hours of entertainment. Hell, one game at a bowling alley is about $8 for 30 minutes of fun. Surely a $0.99-$4.99 game that provides you with a few hours of fun is of equal value, if not more.


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