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Ouya changes policy: Games no longer need free demos

The Ouya hardware, which is one part of the company's gaming ecosystem.

Above: The Ouya hardware, which is one part of the company's gaming ecosystem.

Image Credit: Ouya
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When the Android-based microconsole Ouya launched last year, its creators promised every game would have a free-to-try option — that is coming to an end.

In April, Ouya will stop requiring developers on its Discover store to have a demo. Studios will now have the option to provide a free-to-try version of their games if they want to do so. During a panel discussion at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco today, Ouya software chief Kellee Santiago said that her team has learned a lot of lessons about how customers spend money and how to create a bustling ecosystem for publishers. Removing the free-to-try requirement is just one of the steps the console maker is enacting to improve its platform for the people producing games.

“Starting in April, we’re making the free-to-try component optional,” said Santiago. “[This is] in response to developer feedback. It’s in order to give more flexibility to game-makers to decide what content they want to make on Ouya.”

Currently, every game on the micro-console is free to download. Gamers can decide after installing the title whether they wish to spend money to unlock a full version. When the company first launched the device, it emphasized that all titles are free to try.

That free-to-try business model created some early headaches for developers who found that most customers weren’t purchasing software. Many developers said they were only selling around 500 copies on around 10,000 downloads a few weeks after the Ouya debuted at retail in July. Ouya has since come out to say that games are doing better than that, but it has not provided any specific numbers.

Ouya is a $100 console. It’s Android OS enables developers to quickly release an Ouya version if they already have a title on Google Play. Super Crate Box developer Vlambeer, for example, ported that title to Ouya in one weekend. So while software might struggle on the device, some studios might find it’s still worth a shot — especially after the policy change in April.

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More information:

OUYA was created in 2012 by Julie Uhrman, a video game industry veteran who saw an opportunity to open up the last closed game platform — the TV. Julie and an initial team of game developers and advisors brought the concept to life, ... read more »

Kellee Santiago is a video game designer and producer, and the co-founder and former president of Thatgamecompany. Santiago was born in Caracas, Venezuela and was raised in Richmond, Virginia, where she played video games from a young ... read more »

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