Meta has announced that developers will be able to opt their apps into providing users with a free timed trial which the company hopes will increase conversion while giving developers an easier path compared to creating and maintaining a standalone demo app.

VR apps can be harder to sell than traditional games because the VR experience can’t always be effectively conveyed through screenshots and videos alone. In an effort to create a better way for developers to sell to their customers, Meta has announced a timed trial system which developers can opt into.

The system, which Meta calls Try Before You Buy seems pretty slick. Developers can choose to offer a timed trial for their game ranging from 15 to 30 minutes. 5 minutes before the trial concludes, players will be reminded that the trial is coming to an end and will be given the opportunity to purchase the app on the spot. Players who choose to buy after the trial ends will be able to continue playing the game with their existing progress, including keeping any achievements earned.

Developers can opt into timed trials on the Quest store with no code changes to their app, Meta says. Players who redeem a trial will have 30 days to use the trial time.

Image courtesy Meta

Although devs can opt in with no changes, it’s worth considering that the Try Before You Buy System might actually see higher conversions if a developer considers how long the trial will last and where in the game players are likely to be left off.

Traditional app demos, which use a separate ‘demo’ version of an app, are usually designed to let players play just enough while tantalizing them with a cliffhanger ending or the promise of even more fun just after the end of the demo. But the full version of the game doesn’t always have the same kind of conversion-optimized flow, and thus not every game is likely to align well with the fairly inflexible 15 to 30 minute window afforded by Meta’s system.

Luckily Meta has baked features into Try Before You Buy to help developers figure out if it’s really working for them. Developers can A/B test their app with and without the timed trial by giving only a portion of players the option to trial the app. A dashboard then compares the conversion rate between customers who played the trial and those that didn’t.

In addition to having a chance for greater conversion than a typical demo—thanks to a call-to-action to purchase the game directly inside the trial—the Try Before You Buy Feature is surely easier to manage than a standalone demo app. The latter is a separate version of the app that has a custom game flow specifically to give players a taste of the game. This takes extra time to build and maintain, often leading to demos being older versions of the main app due to the need to keep both updated separately.

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As far as we can see, the Try Before You Buy system exists alongside the Quest store’s existing refund policy that allows players to refund apps as long as they’ve played less than two hours of a game and it’s been no more than 14 days since purchase. While this system effectively allows for a ‘trial’ it not only requires up-front payment from the user, but also many simply seem unaware of its existence. The Try Before You Buy system, on the other hand, will be much more obvious to customers and Meta says it will even create a separate section of its store to highlight VR apps offering trials.

Unfortunately Meta says that Try Before You Buy will not be available for its PC VR app store or to App Lab apps.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Very neat, something Steam could learn from if it’s executed well.

    • ViRGiN

      Steam? Steam is too busy adding steam-mojis. Clearly they got jealous of user engagement from Facebook, and are turning their game store into gamers social media.

    • Jistuce

      Valve doesn’t have to care, sadly. The odds of them making a major change to the money funnel without external pressure forcing it are pretty slim.

      I’ve seen platform-wide timed demos before. My favorite instance of it was XBox Live Community Games, or whatever the final name of that service was. Mostly because the tongue-in-cheek shooter “I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1″(yes, that’s the actual title) timed the background music to spit the lyric “It’s just a dollar, and I hope you’ll pay” right before the demo expired. It was hilarious.

  • silvaring

    Very nice development, I wonder why they are not bringing it to PC though.

  • Mr.Philgood

    This is great for gamers, not for studios. At least if Jesse Schell is still right. He gave a talk about “Releasing a Game Demo Can Cut Sales in Half”.

    • ViRGiN

      15m-30m is enough to decide on purchase. Less hassle with refunds afterwards.
      If the game is shit, or beatable in 15 minutes, then lack of demo is just trapping the customer.

  • Joe S.

    Finally. At the beginning I was very exited,but I quickly found many games just weren’t fun. But meta stepped pretty fast on my refunds and when I complained about that, everybody was defending this policy…

  • This is very cool for us developers. But I wonder why it is not available for App Lab…

  • alxslr

    30′ max?
    I don’t think that’ll be very usefull for non game apps. Developers need users to get used to the app UI and functionalities, and that can easily take 1-2h por complex apps. On those apps more that stressing 15′ or 30′ trial can lead to more retention. Can’t understand why they don’t give that choice to devs.

  • me

    Is this active now? If not, when will it be active?

  • Nick

    There are many good titles (it seems) available for quest 2, but sadly I am not made of money. The games in themselves are quite adequately priced, as individual objects, £7 – £30 isn’t bad, but I want a lot of games, and have found myself not willing to shell out for a game I only play for 5 mins. Moss is great, for example, but I’m kind of busy, and have only played it once, twice? Since I paid £25 for it a few months ago. Maybe it’s always been this way with games? Demos are great and I think the meta idea outlined above would give users the idea of whether they want to buy a game or not. From what I can see, a Netflix vr game streaming service looks the way to go (at least something similar) where you would pay £5.99 a month, and play each game simply as much as you like without having to cough up the £25 for 5 mins joy. On the other hand, I’ve just discovered app lab, so will be heading in this direction for a bit, gorilla tag here I come !

  • Miarosc

    If a demo cuts sales in half it is for either of two reasons:
    1 – people discovered the game is trash, beyond the marketing hype.
    2 – the demo was decent, but too liberal in its trial offering e.g. an entire level.

    Demos can only be a progressive thing. Everyone involved can benefit from the reasons above. Too many videos are entirely based on video cut-scenes rather than actual gameplay. User reviews are much more realistic accounts, but how do they demonstrate a games VR experience for you personally?

    With Meta only refunding your game “if they feel like it” whether it meets the guidelines or not; how do we get a fair shake at trying before buying? I suspect the industry relies on hype and smokescreens to blindside you into a rash purchase. Money-making is all most studios care about, not quality of experience like HL Alyx for example.