Sony’s jump to the PS5 has a been a successful one as a rabid demand has kept the white, alien-looking box off store shelves since its November 2020 launch. But its jump to the future has seemingly come at the cost of its attitude toward the past as a new report has stated that Sony is shutting down the PlayStation Store for the PS3, PS Vita, and PSP within the next few months. It’s a bad move all around as it harms the industry as well as the many players within it.
Back to the used game bins
The report in question from TheGamer says that the PSP’s and PS3 stores will close on July 2 and the Vita’s storefront will shut down on August 27. After that, users won’t be able to purchase DLC or games for those three platforms. This is already a huge problem since these consoles — yes, even the Vita — all have a suite of great and exclusive titles that will become nearly unplayable for anyone who will pick up these systems down the line. Not everyone buys every platform at release and there will always be people who were too young (or not even alive!) to properly mine the gems of year’s past.
Digital-only games will suffer more, but hunting down physical copies of old games will still be a hassle. Online storefronts have made legacy systems less stressful to work with since they yield an easier (and sometimes cheaper) alternative to skulking around eBay or used game bins. That luxury wasn’t possible in earlier generations since they did not have online stores, but now consumers will just have to jump through those same hoops to find those titles lucky enough to even be on physical media in the first place. Hopefully, Sony at least allows users to download their purchases in perpetuity because taking that away would be the most dastardly part of this as it further makes digital goods feel less secure.
Ass-backwards with backwards compatibility
Nixing old stores also shows Sony’s dedication to backwards compatibility or lack thereof. Unless Sony is tearing down these stores to “port” them to the PS5, which is highly unlikely as that is a huge feature to leave out of the report, this means that the console maker is killing any notion of letting users buy and play old games on the PS5. Emulating PS3 games is still a nightmare, even on modern hardware because of reasons that are incredibly difficult to understand. But this is still quite disappointing since it’s hard not to look at how Microsoft is nailing backwards compatibility with its comparatively weaker and shorter legacy.
Xbox Series X/S owners can play a whole bunch of original Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One titles, some of which have boosted frame rates, improved texture filtering, and automatic HDR. It’s remarkable. PS5 players can only play most PS4 games and not titles from the PS1, PS2, PS3, PS Vita, and PSP. Astro’s Playroom was an excellent celebration of Sony’s history yet the system it was packed in with is anything but as closing down the store doesn’t bode well for those systems and the ability to play their games going forward.
It’s sad that backwards compatibility isn’t much of a concern for Sony. Sony Global Sales Chief Jim Ryan told Time that he wondered why anyone would want to play old games because they “looked ancient.” It’s a dismissive attitude that discounts nostalgia and gives an insight into Sony’s view of its past and how much they care if people experience it. Implementing backwards compatibility is a lot of hard work, particularly for the PS3 and portable platforms, and by pulling these stores, it looks like Sony doesn’t care to put in that hard work.
Preservation is for… cowards?
Backwards compatibility is also a more convenient way to preserve games. While it sucks to not be able to buy some digital-only titles like Super Stardust HD or inFamous: Festival of Blood down the road, it also sucks that these titles can’t quite live on and be preserved like other games. From the weird indies to every piece of DLC, these titles will only live on through those that have them now, which is a preservationist’s worst nightmare.
Digital-only games made their debut in this era for the most part, meaning that there are no discs to back up a lot of the titles from this point in time. WiiWare and DSiWare went through the same process, but Sony pulling three bigger storefronts is a more substantial hit against video game preservation. Not every game gets re-released or remastered, but they still deserve to be remembered and these games at the most risk of falling through the cracks will probably never get put out on newer systems.
Preservation is important. Video games are a form of art that should should withstand generations and many icons in the gaming industry don’t seem to fully grasp that. Microsoft seems to get it, as it had a whole section titled “Advancing the State of the Art of Game Preservation” in its blog post about backwards compatibility on the Xbox Series X/S.
Sony has already been laying the groundwork for this. In October, Sony stopped support for PSP, PS3, and Vita games on the web and mobile store. And there have been rumblings that Sony was no longer allowing discounts on non-cross-buy Vita games, something that likely extended to PS3 games as well. There was probably some graph that pointed to the money made through these stores was not overcoming the amount of money being spent on them. But history should not bend to capitalistic concerns and everyone loses in the process, especially those who just want to play some weird-ass games like Noby Noby Boy.