Sony’s False-ish Alarm


Apparently there was a big enough outcry from PS3 and Vita enthusiasts and/or owners, or maybe more likely a big enough spike in legacy digital sales, that Sony’s not going to close the purchasing side of the storefront for those systems in a couple months, rather that date’s been pushed out to an undisclosed time once again. It’s really more just buying time at this point, given the sheer number of games still available on the digital storefront to sort through and all that. I’m certain they’ll eventually get tired of having legacy servers taking up space and drop those, maybe with less warning for all we know. However the PSP’s still on the way out, given that the storefront for that was already pretty much closed before, plus getting it to run on modern wi-fi networks is a small hassle and a possible security concern. But at least that’s easily hackable.

Generally speaking, with the first major digital storefronts on consoles being on the verge of impending closure, and with the Wii Shop Channel already closed, it’s still better to start looking into things sooner than wait until a closure announcement giving who knows how long advance notice. By all means, don’t stop the cataloging and preservation work, just panic way less. Don’t even panic. Resellers, or even primary sellers at times, love to take advantage of panic, as has proven forever.

I have spreadsheets in the works marking the entirety of at least one region’s PS3 online shop, as far as what I could actually still find on there given the interface has been pretty broken since the overhaul, and the web store is unusable for this, even for the more recent consoles. It’s a lot of manual searching and cross-referencing lists that aren’t aware that several licensed or otherwise games were pulled years back. Most of the retro library still seems to be up, though, for those fine with decently low enough prices to “officially” play a few possibly obscure games.

What did come out of this is noticing how many games were only in physical format in that turning generation, where lately nearly any console game that comes out will be at least digital usually, with a run of some physical copies for those who still use those or prefer them. Given how some console models now lack a disc drive, they intend to drive out that side of things eventually, and then this future problem hits a bigger scale when a console can only play games from a storefront without hacking it, and something is planned to happen to that storefront. And of course any market reason could drive up the prices of older physical games, to where using the digital storefront is far more economical, but not without concern. For games where that’s not an option, it’s also a concern especially when the market drives prices up, and results in the usage of “unofficial digital versions”, or just burned copies if the system is set up for it and the drive still works.

Of course the PC market has mainly been digital for years now given the number of options available and the quality and/or quantity within some options, to where a physical PC release became more of a novelty. That’s already starting to be the case on consoles, where some download-only game gets a bonus more expensive edition with a physical copy and other things along with it, maybe. However the facilities to produce them and the respective media slot still need to exist for this to happen, so if there’s to be a full download switchover for consoles, the companies behind those would more likely just switch fully over to general merchandising, unless somehow having a copy on an included USB drive counted enough to appease the enthusiasts, provided the console was designed to handle such a thing, which seems unlikely given the whole digital license system thing.

Looking at the other console with a still-functional storefront, the Xbox 360, this depends on how Microsoft is going to continue the plan for backwards compatibility, if they plan to expand it at any point. There’s still many games that aren’t yet working on the Xbone, especially in the original Xbox library which was practically only physical. There’s even some exceptions to the backwards compatibility rule, where a game like Driver: San Francisco is installable with a disc but can’t be downloaded on its own due to whatever Ubisoft is thinking, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on original Xbox instead installs the 360 version which has been updated to do things people don’t really like such as removing music and having more bugs probably. I do wonder if or when they’ll drop the 360-specific support while leaving the 360 emulation on the current Xbox systems.

Given that backwards compatibility is one edge Xbox has in the market, pushing for more of that seems like a good idea in concept at least. It just has to appeal economically to get the suits to sign off on it, and given how publishers tend to either want to push new games or handle re-releasing them on their own, it can be a hard sell. But it tends to win with the actual players, regardless of who actually takes advantage of it. Maybe it would be one of those long-term goal appeals. But at least they have Game Pass, and that seems to be doing fine, but does enforce the digital download appeal and even concerns about ownership, as it’s effectively a rental service acting like a streaming service.

It comes down to not if but more likely when a storefront decides to close down for most likely economical reasons. If there’s a large enough spike in sales, maybe they’ll prolong it. If it keeps happening, then maybe it’s a terrible bluff and it’ll be a crying wolf situation when they don’t hit that peak they want and really close it with no take-backs. I just wonder how this would theoretically work out for anyone who’s amassed a large library of PC download games that they haven’t actually downloaded most of due to it being unfeasible without spending a ton on storage, even as prices for that historically get cheaper for more space, plus the whole licensing thing. Maybe possible to download a smaller library of DRM-free installers, though. Plus the usual “unofficial” methods for a copy of anything otherwise needing a license, unless a game had such excessive DRM it actually somehow prevented that.

The most important thing to think of however is to enjoy the games you’ve got while you’ve got them and they’re working. Of all things, Game Pass reminded me a bit of that, as I’m not sure how long I’d actually want to keep that active after I play at least most of what interested me, so I might as well check them out before I let the membership drop. It seems like the length of the trial changed from three months to one, unless I’m missing somewhere it still says three, but there’s also some variety of ways to get one or two week extensions on top of that, but at least I did get three months out of it, paid for with rewards points I had not doing much otherwise.

Another big takeaway, though, is that for a moment, Sony actually cared about the Vita. Or just appeared to. It did show up in that Astro’s Playroom tech demo type game off to the side at least.