Ouya has changed its mind on the mandatory “free-to-try” payment model for games and will let developers opt for the traditional pay-up-front model if they want.
Back when Ouya was new, its creators made a point of emphasizing its “free-to-try” payment model, which mandated that gamers be given a piece of a game to play at no charge, after which they could opt to pay for the full package. “It is standard policy for Ouya games to provide free game content that players can try before they buy,” the company said in a document entitled “Monetizing Your Ouya Game.” “This free content acts as a developer’s first-foot-forward before asking the player to make a purchase, so it is incredibly important.”
We used to call it “shareware” back in the days of yore, and a few companies you may have heard of did pretty well for themselves with it. These days, however, it seems that developers are somewhat less enthusiastic about the idea, to the point that Ouya has decided to drop the policy and let them charge whatever they want, whenever they want.
“In the coming weeks, we’re going to let devs choose if they want to charge up front for their games. Now they’ll be able to choose between a free-to-try or paid model,” Bob Mills, Ouya’s “Games Guy,” wrote in a blog post explaining the change. “We didn’t come to this decision unilaterally. Devs have been asking us for this choice for more than a year.”
Mills said there are times when it is impractical, either creatively or financially, to create a demo for a game, but the main thrust seems to be choice and “empowering devs.” The free-to-try model “seemed like an obvious choice for an open platform” in the early days of Ouya, but it came out last summer that the actual conversion rate was very low. Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman said shortly after that report that sales were actually doing better than expected, but this rather dramatic change in direction suggests that a lot of developers still don’t see Ouya in its current state as an essential platform for their work.