The past 4 weeks have been a rollercoaster for Playstation Vita fans. First, Sony announced that they would close the PSP, Vita and PS3 digital stores. Then, after the community rallied, they backed down and decided that we could still give them our money after all. But this whole shebang highlights once again Playstation’s disastrous approach to game preservation. Let’s talk about it all.
The Digital Games Revolution
In order to appreciate the impact of Playstation’s horrible attitude toward digital games, we must first understand the legacy which they represent. In no small way, digital stores signified a revolution not seen in entertainment since the advent of video games themselves. If you’re old (or interested) enough to remember, coin-ops relied on mechanical machines which were prone to breaking and needed tons of repairs. When video games came about, it all changed, and it allowed businesses to completely change their model. From arcades to casinos and beyond, the digital revolution had begun. Instead of having to tinker with an old pinball machine, you could simply plug in an arcade cabinet and have it work for ages. Instead of trying to walk miles to find a fair casino, you can simply stay in pajamas, visit the portal allvideoslots, and enjoy yourself in the comfort of your own home. You get the idea.
Digital storefronts, similarly, created an accessibility revolution for game developers. They allowed a wide variety of creators to put their ideas into the hands of gamers like never before. It follows, then, that digital storefronts have a wealth of digital-only games which depend of said stores to continue being “alive”. Enter Playstation.
Playstation’s Disastrous Stance
Here’s the deal: every single video game that has a digital-only release is always at risk of being lost to time. That’s why preservation is so important. But the truth is, due to their proprietary hardware/software/storage combination, digital-only console releases are at a much greater risk of being lost forever.
So when one of industry leaders simply decides to shut down their digital stores, negating access to purchasing games for new fans… it’s worrysome. It is a slippery slope from not being able to buy games, to not being able to download games you’ve bought before.
This not only jeopardizes game preservation, but completely negates the idea of ownership. As the haters say, you don’t really own digital games, you only rent them. And it can send a dangerous message to other digital storefronts.
So, what can console platforms do? There’s of course the DRM-free route, which on PC, makes sense. Thta’s what GOG are doing, and I love their services. But it’s not realistic for console platforms. So, what to do?
Hey, we can definitely start by not removing access to the stores. They take very little maintanence to begin with, and they provide both game developers and gamers the opportunity to interact with each other. Game preservation is important. The fact that something is in the digital domain does not guarantee that someone will always have a copy somewhere. We need to be less flippant about what it means to be a game developer and the legacy that video games have as art.
And Sony: you can start by no longer being a prat.