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GAME stores charging for PlayStation VR demos

Branches offering half an hour for £15, but store policies appear inconsistent

Update: GAME has since responded to reports about its VR promotion, with a spokesperson issuing the following statement to GamesIndustry.biz:

“Our pay-to-play PlayStation VR experience is a GAME-led initiative. The cost to use the in-store PS4 pod is entirely refundable for customers that go on to buy either the headset or a PS4 console. The payment allows us to ensure that we have dedicated staff manning the PlayStation VR pods who have been fully trained to adhere to best practice demo guidelines. The demos are intended to give our customers access to one of the most exciting new gaming technologies in 2016 and provide them with the opportunity to get a feel for VR before they commit to buy.”

Original Story:Several GAME stores around the country have launched a new promotion giving users a chance to try PlayStation VR before they buy. However, in some instances, players are being charged.

Various tweets from individual store accounts announced it would be allowing customers to get hands-on time with the virtual reality headset now that stock has been replenished. Some of these tweets, collected by UploadVR, specify that players will be charged £5 for either ten or twenty minutes - depending on the branch - or £15 for half an hour. GAME has yet to clarify whether this applies to all stores.

There are also mixed reports of whether the demo fee will be refunded if customers purchase the PlayStation VR afterwards, with at least one store promising that full refunds will be awarded.

The promotion is purely a GAME-led initiative, with a Sony spokesperson telling UploadVR: "Retailers run in-store activity at their own discretion." Sony is running its own PSVR demos via a nationwide tour.

GAME CEO Martyn Gibbs mentioned 'pay to play VR' when discussing the retailer's plans to build on the success of its in-store Multiplay Arena at the Manchester Trafford Centre branch, according to MCV.

While the inconsistency over demo fees is confusing - and, to some, divisive - it is nonetheless good to see a retailer offering hands-on opportunities with a virtual reality device. For the technology to grow and achieve its full potential, it needs to reach mainstream audience and playable demonstrations is the most effective way to convey how virtual reality works and sell the type of experiences it can provide.

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Latest comments (8)

Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, AzoomeeA year ago
Let's increase the barrier to entry further :)
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Andreia Quinta Photographer, Studio52 LondonA year ago
I wonder if car dealers would charge me for a test drive? On another note maybe the local cinemas should charge a fiver for people to see a 10 minute preview of a movie in 3D before I buy the full 3D ticket, sounds like a good business opportunity. And that's exactly what Game seems to be doing, although I wouldn't call it a business opportunity as much as I would call it opportunism...
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Hugo Trepanier Game Designer, Behaviour InteractiveA year ago
Let's put cynicism aside for a moment. It would actually make sense to have locations where you can enjoy a full and affordable VR experience for a short while. There are a lot of people who cannot commit to the complete price tag who'd likely love to try it out for half an hour or so.

Not sure the GAME stores are the best place for this though, except if you have an incentive to buy the home version afterwards for a reduced price.
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Show all comments (8)
I will try and simplify this situation, as I know it's a complicated position, and there are some vested interests that may feel uncomfortable if we go into too much detail (especially those not use to UK retail practice).

Firstly to the main criticism - the consumer hardware and software being used in these demonstrations has been offered under the express permission that they are used as 'free' non-commercial demonstrators for prospective buyers. To charge any amount is to break the TOS, Warranty (covering software and hardware) and retailers responsibility act (covering the use of premises).

Note - I have not mentioned also the fact that the demo games being used have also not been agreed for commercial usage, so either the GAME stores will need to recompense the publishers for miss use of content, or face action.

It has been revealed that rather than a GAME retail executive decision, the move has been made by certain 'disgruntled' regional managers at GAME stores. This is difficult to confirm as of this time Sony has avoided comment, and the GAME management has rushed to 'bunker mode' and ignored all calls for a statement at this time.

The reasoning for this development (beyond that of questionable regional managers action) seem unable to hold water:

- Offering a chance for people who can't afford the PSVR to try the system
The demonstration is for potential buyers of the hardware and is not to be used for any other activities that would void the sales agreement with vendor and supplier, including the issue of content used.

- Sony has not made enough money available for GAME managers to fund demos
This is not a valid argument as the money being collected is not sanctioned by GAME (limited) and is not being paid to the staff, (as this would invalidating their terms of employment). Also, information on what has been set aside to adequately reimburse GAME managers for demo'ing PSVR is between then and GAME management and not Sony!

Note - claims of the impact on the staffing of these GAME stores is another smoke screen, as it should be the managers' job to have adequately staffed the required PSVR demo positions - unless they want to admit to a major failure in their duties, this situation looks more and more as a cash grab.

- The money will be refunded if the player buys a PSVR
This is the most pernicious of all the excuses - it is difficult to offer a refund on prior payment if the retailer have not already agreed the structure of the redemption with (in this case) Sony retail. A retrospective refund has not been agreed so if these GAME stores do hand back the money they are taking part in an illegal activity against current UK sales law.

In conclusion (I tried to keep it short), you can see with this last point that GAME is embarrassed having been placed in a loose-loose position by a bunch of opportune managers. How this situation will end will be interesting - and to anyone that pays to try these demos... keep your receipt!

Note - just as I type this, questions are being raised regarding the authority to print signs and advertise this paid demo plan by managers of GAME - and the possibility that the company may be culpable by association to illegal practices. Also the official statement from Sony washing their hands of involvement seems to point to a troubled time ahead.
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Jordan Lund Columnist A year ago
It does make sense from a retail perspective. Anyone who has worked retail knows that the general public are, at their core, a large group of animals. You can't just put $500 worth of kit out on the counter for anyone to try as it will be destroyed within days.

That means paying someone to stand there and assist with demos, wipe the ear-wax off the head-sets, maintain the 10 minute limit so everyone gets a try, etc. Which takes them away from whatever other duties they're going to have in the store...

It's also not like this is a goldmine or anything. Considering re-set time, they'd be lucky to do 4 or 5 demos an hour. So between £20 and £25 per hour, less the £7 or £8 they're paying the person to stand there and manage the experience.
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Charging for this just reeks of desperation.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! A year ago
Uh... no. This crap would not fly in the U.S. of A, PERIOD. Charging to play a game demo? Your store would not only be laughed at, people would walk out laughing only to come back later with friends just to repeat the process.

@Jordan: Having worked in a game shop myself (1998-2003), I'll let you in on a secret: All that stuff you noted? Yeah, that's the responsibility of the manager to not only find an employee or two to do that grunt work, it's EXPECTED that it be done as part of the gig with no extra compensation because hey, if it's a product you sell, you take care of it. The worst thing in a game shop environment is too much downtime. Having people enthused about and ready to show off/clean up new tech makes an otherwise dull day somewhat thrilling.
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@Jordan, no matter how low you place the public (your readers) in contempt, the fact is that charging to play consumer game content on a consumer games platform breaks the TOS and warranty of the respective systems. And we hear nothing of the money collected going to pay the game developers let alone, why Sony is so 'laid back' about this!

...Oh, just read the other news story about the financial situation at GAME!

Would seem this crude money grab is endemic of the bigger problem that are circling above GAME and their management team. See why Sony may want to distance themselves from this possible implosion. To all that propose to go for a PSVR demo at GAME... get a receipt!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by kevin williams on 26th October 2016 3:24am

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