We’ve already reviewed quite a lot of games here at Vita Player and you can’t have failed to notice that the majority of them are in a downloadable format from the Playstation Store. It’s been said by many in the industry that gaming is set to go completely digitial in the coming years or that we will more than likely find that even games that still do come on some form of physical media will still need some form of digital activation. Right now, from the PS Vita’s point of view, the majority of titles that are available for the console are digital only and in the long term this could cause problems for gamers and it’s something that has caused concern for modern gamers…
While not much of a concern for modern gaming enthusiasts, anyone who has been a gamer since the 80s or early 90s will always have a soft spot for games on physical media – whether it be cassette, disk, cartridge, CD etc. It’s not just about nostalgia though. No matter how old a console may be, those old games are still physically there and as long as the system and games have been kept in reasonably good condition then you can still play them. Personally I can still run games on the very first computer I owned that is over 30 years old but can that be said of current consoles and the PC?
The main concern that many have right now is regarding the abundance of games that are available to download right now. As gamers, we are truly spoilt for choice and there are some superb games available at great prices but there is a potential problem looming. Despite Sony allowing us to re-download software if we need to in the event of hardware failure or harddrive upgrades for the PS3 (and transfering games across to the PC using Content Manager when swapping memory cards for the PS Vita), what happens when those games are no longer available from the store for one reason or another?
Speculation has already been made that – at some point in the distant future – support will be withdrawn from the PSN Store for older consoles so we won’t be able to download games that we may have purchased in the past because our consoles will be obsolete but nothing has been said about this by Sony. However, it’s already started to happen. A number of Minis have already been removed from the Store for one reason or another (including a game based on the Terminator series and the tower defence game Vector TD) so these are no longer available to re-download and several PS1 games have also disappeared including the arcade classics Gauntlet, Mortal Kombat, Super Sprint and many more.
While many of these are due to licencing issues, gamers would still have been able to play these had they owned physical copies of the games in question and that’s the main problem. Looking at my own Vita collection right now, the majority of them are digital downloads and I do wonder how many of them I will still be able to play in ten years time. It’s not something that has ever been a worry to me with any computer or console I have ever owned before until this current hardware generation. We are all – PC and console owners – potentially looking at finding ourselves being left with a software collection that we may not be able to play in a decade from now.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just a Sony issue and is something that will affect the entire gaming industry. If Microsoft take XBLA offline for any reason, it could leave millions of XBox360 owners unable to play games they have paid for and a couple of years ago when Reflections Arcade stopped selling casual games the same happened – hundreds of thousands of their customers worldwide were unable to obtain new activation codes for games that had developed installation faults (a common issue with some casual games) leaving gamers with software they couldn’t use. From a personal point of view, I was left with dozens of games I had paid for but couldn’t play and couldn’t re-install on my new PC without buying them again from a new distributor meaning I had lost a considerable sum of money.
This could be worrying for nothing and companies like Sony and Microsoft could be planning for the future and intending to keep their servers on for the long-term supporting all of their old systems and online providers such as Steam for the PC could intend to take the same approach, but if not then the games industry could be forced into taking a backwards step towards physical media once again… which could stifle creativity, and would all but crush the smaller independent developers from releasing some of the great games we have seen in recent years.
Let’s just hope that we get the long-term support we need so that doesn’t happen.
Editor, Vita Player