After weeks of rumors, Sony has confirmed that they’re closing the PlayStation Store on PlayStation 3, PS Vita, and PSP starting on July 2.
While you will still be able to access your digital content on those platforms via certain methods after that day (and download previously purchased items of that date) you will no longer be able to download new digital content via the PlayStation Store on those devices past that point. I recommend that you check out Sony’s full list of rules and restrictions related to this decision for a clear understanding of what you will and will not be able to access on those devices after that day.
If that information doesn’t strike you as something worth dreading or even caring about, I can’t blame you. Most of us have moved on from PS3 to PS4 and PS5, and the numbers say that a lot of us never owned Sony’s handheld devices in the first place. Besides, if we’re being really honest, the PS3 wasn’t exactly a heavy hitter in terms of quality exclusives and many of its best games are available on modern consoles and devices in some form.
However, the story here isn’t just what you will and will not be able to download on those devices after that day; it’s about what this policy tells us about Sony’s methods, mentality, and the potentially consumer unfriendly implications of their upcoming hardware generations.
Actually, the first thing you need to know about this decision is that it doesn’t just affect PS3, PS Vita, and PSP exclusives. This decision will also impact your ability to download certain classic titles that are currently only available (or most easily accessible) digitally on those devices. As some fans have already pointed out on Twitter, that means that a variety of beloved gaming experiences are either about to become inaccessible or much more difficult to legally access via a PlayStation console.
That’s where we get into the heart of this issue. If the idea of these stores closing doesn’t immediately strike you as something worth caring about because you believe that you’ll still be able to play modern games you play most on modern PlayStation platforms, then consider that there are many games that you may have never got the chance to love on PS4/PS5 despite the fact they were playable on PS3.
For quite some time, one of the best ways to access those games was through these devices that will soon essentially be dropped by the PlayStation Store. To be clear, that was never an ideal situation. You shouldn’t have to keep old consoles around simply because you might want to play a handful of games that will otherwise not be easily available in the future, and you certainly shouldn’t have to be dependent on those old consoles’ ability to digitally download some of those games. Subsequent hardware should feature at least as much support as their predecessors, but that’s not what’s happening in the case of the PlayStation brand.
Sony deciding to close these stores on old platforms wouldn’t be a big deal were it not for the fact that the company hasn’t always been the biggest supporter of backward compatibility (to put it mildly). The PS5 offers it with the PS4, but because the PS4 wasn’t backward compatible with the PS3, there’s this strange gap in support that becomes much harder to ignore once the PS3’s ability to serve as one of the easiest gateways to older PlayStation titles will soon be severely limited. That’s why many are wondering what this decision tells us about where Sony’s head is at regarding accessibility, backward compatibility, and taking advantage of the digital age.
Those are all very good points. While you’re still able to purchase physical PS3 discs for your physical PS3 and do the same for older PlayStation consoles and the games they support, why is that still the safest way to play older games? One of the advantages of the digital age should be that we’re able to relatively easily download and access most of the games that have been available for a particular platform (or platforms associated with a brand). The PC has worked that way forever (with obvious exceptions typically related to licensing and tech issues), and Microsoft has done a fantastic job of ensuring that modern Xbox consoles let you easily play most games that have ever been released for an Xbox console.
What’s so frustrating is that Sony does clearly has the ability to allow you to access older games digitally because that’s the exact function that they’re choosing to shut down for reasons which currently don’t extend beyond “We don’t think people use these consoles anymore or care about these games.” If they announced they were discontinuing their support of the PlayStation store on those platforms because they were expanding that support to PS4 and PS5, then there wouldn’t really be a problem. Instead, we’re once again asked to accept that these are the consequences of the digital age even if it’s clear that companies have the ability to eliminate or mitigate those consequences if they choose to do so.
Sony has no shortage of avenues they could utilize to offer easy access to a large number of classic PlayStation titles (including their PlayStation Now service), but there are times when they seem more interested in seeing how little of an effort they can make without upsetting too many people.
I love PlayStation games, and I’m glad that Sony expanded the PS5’s backward compatibility abilities after they dropped the ball in that department with the PS4. However, as technology improves, revenue rises, and the cost of the average game looks to go up, we should be demanding more access from our favorite game companies and not simply accepting that the best path forward is to learn to make excuses for what they choose to give us.