Sony has announced that the PlayStation stores of the PlayStation Portable (PSP), PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Vita will be shutting down later in the year. While previously purchased items will still be downloadable, people will no longer be able to purchase and download games, extra content, and videos on these systems.
This is a huge blow to game preservation and history, and many exclusive titles and experiences will be lost. The only way these games will be officially preserved is with their physical releases (which likely jump in price once the option to buy them digitally becomes unavailable), and with the push for digital-only consoles and streaming, this shutdown is an important reminder about the importance of physical media and even piracy.
Microsoft and PlayStation both have disc-less versions of their latest consoles, and while they may be cheaper and more convenient, it’s important for this not to become the future of how all consoles are and for discs and cartridges to stay around. Take the PSP Go, for example. This revision of Sony’s handheld was sleeker and more compact but was digital-only as it lacked a slot to put in physical games. Once the PlayStation store closes, this system will essentially become a paperweight for people who don’t already have games downloaded or purchased. The Xbox Series S and PlayStation 5 Digital Edition could meet this same fate one day once the systems become obsolete, and that’s a travesty for the gaming industry and its history.
While many are quick to leave their old devices in the dust bin once a newer version comes out, many still want to go back to these older games that may not be available anywhere else. Despite being a nearly 20-year-old game that is only playable on the ancient GameCube and Wii, Super Smash Bros Melee still has a huge competitive scene and tournaments with thousands of dollars on the line. This is only thanks to people still being able to track down discs of the game, if it was only available on a now-defunct online store, the only way to play the game would be piracy.
Piracy seems like a taboo subject to many, but it serves a great use in letting people consume otherwise inaccessible forms of media. Many games on these PlayStation systems were never released anywhere else and may have only been available digitally or only had a very limited physical release. All three of these systems are not very hard to hack, and while many are opposed to doing such a thing and want to purchase the games and support the developers, they will soon have no other options. Without people ripping these game files and sharing them, many important and impactful games would be lost forever, and so game piracy ultimately holds a very morally questionable but vital place and purpose.
These concerns about video game preservation could apply to other forms of media as well. Many countries ban or censor books, movies and music, or businesses could just go under, making their products unavailable to purchase. Without libraries, discs, cassettes and yes, even piracy, these items could be lost forever. So, while digital stores and streaming seem to be the most popular and convenient forms of media consumption right now, it’s important to not forget about the other outdated or controversial forms.
Jaden Patel // Staff Writer