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Brian Provinciano's Retro City Rampage dropped into the rotation in late December. He said publishers and developers are the ones who choose whether or not to put their game on PS Plus. "It's totally up to us. If a game's on there, it's safe to assume that the publisher or developer was satisfied with the agreement," explained Provinciano.
He said he doesn't have a method of measuring exactly the impact the promotion had, but he knows it had a positive effect, as it got the word out about a new intellectual property that most players had never heard of.
"It has surely helped build the brand," Provinciano said. "Looking at two data points, the number of players and how much they played shows that it's grown the user base and created fans. Over 125,000 additional players gave it a try and despite getting it for free, around 85 percent of them enjoyed it enough to play through most of the game."
That data provided some validation for Provinciano; it showed that people who tried the game actually enjoyed it enough to play it a lot.
What that equates to is "more potential customers with their eyes on what I release next," he said. "Gaining 100,000 additional fans to spread the word is huge, especially in combating some mixed reviews from critics at launch.
"One notable reviewer claimed that the game was too difficult and stopped playing halfway through, scoring it low. However, PS Plus cultivated another 100,000 people who can tell their friends otherwise. The word of a friend always holds more weight than that of a critic."
Provinciano said PS Plus has given him and other developers another way to "keep the tail alive," extending sales. "I admittedly put Retro City Rampage in PS Plus too soon, but there were other factors involved. One being that the XBLA release at the time was uncertain, so I need to make the most of which platforms were. Secondly, I was excited for it to be part of the launch of PS Plus on PS Vita."
So, for the studios who got back with us, it does sound as though "free" does pay off for developers, when it comes to PS Plus. But long-term, there could be a potential, major drawback -- the "I'll get it when it's free" syndrome.
"I won't make every game available for free on PS Plus," Provinciano said. "If players come to expect that every game from a developer will be eventually made available for free, it will eat into day one purchases. I'd determine it on a case-by-case basis."
Foosball 2012's Mikyska added that such promotions could have a market-wide impact on players' pricing expectations. "I think that [PS Plus] has its major advantages, but also some pitfalls that must be avoided. Most importantly -- we mustn't educate our customers that games are for free, like the developers of mobile games did, or we have a problem. But, so far, PS Plus seems to be working well."