Sony's Storefront Fiasco Shows It Misunderstands The Value of Nostalgia

This week, TheGamer reported that Sony is shuttering the PlayStation Store on PS3, PSP, and PlayStation Vita.

While it's unlikely this kind of decision is made without the company losing money by keeping those stores running, there's still a tinge of sadness. For one, anything that wasn't ported over to the PS4 (and there were many), is now mired on the PS3.

As Sony's first real dalliance with the indie scene, that means there are some fantastic PlayStation Minis and digital-only titles that won't be arriving on any other platform. They're essentially, well, gone, unless you download them right now.

Then there are the PSP and Vita libraries, both with contrasting successes on Sony's handhelds but undoubtedly with a huge number of titles that weren't ported or published elsewhere.

Perhaps most incredible of all is that this has come from Sony. Sure, the company's backwards compatibility was entirely absent from last-gen (and feels like something of an afterthought this gen when it comes to cross-generational titles), but how many huge games from its extensive pantheon of studios have been introduced with classic characters?

Imagine the God of War reveal prior to Kratos' return in 2018. Imagine seeing him emerge from the shadows in the year 2021 instead, spurring you to return to his classic titles only to find that unless you bought a physical copy, they're gone. You can't just boot up your PS3 to download them, and the portable games aren't on the Vita. It's baffling.

The same could be said of Ratchet and Clank. Insomniac's platformer got a fantastic reboot last-gen, but anything before that has essentially fallen off of the face of the earth (physical copies aside, which, in a pandemic, are harder to come by).

It's put in stark contrast when we look at how Microsoft operates. Sure, it may have been bought on by desperation to get "back in the game" last generation, but Xbox Series S/X are like gaming time machines.

If I boot up my Xbox Series X right now, I can hop into the store and download the original Knights of the Old Republic and it just works – a game that launched in 2003, and therefore didn't get a digital release on console. Hell, there's even the option for it to play better.

Consider the flip side – there are PlayStation Vita games launching this year that will be removed from sale in just a few months time. That's a developer's livelihood being reduced to a short-term sales target.

We're still yet to hear from Sony, of course, but the omens are concerning. As pointed out on Twitter by The Guardian's Alex Hern, the PSPGo (a digital-only hardware revision) launched in 2009.

If the console's life is now, well, over, then will the all-digital PS5 live longer than the same twelve-year window?

Food for thought, for sure. Platform holders may prefer digital revenue models, but they should surely have a duty of care to ensure these game libraries can be preserved somehow. 

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