Fans of Sony’s PlayStation 3, PSP, and Vita consoles have been disappointed to learn in recent days that the PlayStation Store (Sony’s digital shop) will no longer be available on those machines later this year. It makes sense – the PlayStation 3 is fifteen years old this year, and an entire console generation has come and gone since it was last relevant. But we’ll look at that in a moment. What surprised me is the frankly hysterical reaction from some PlayStation super-fans who seem to think – and in the cases of some content creators have told their large audiences – that Sony is about to “delete all of their digital games!”
This is absolutely not true.
Sony shutting down the PlayStation Store on these older consoles doesn’t mean that players will lose games that they have downloaded. They won’t be deleted from the system, nor will they suddenly become impossible to boot up. All it means is that buying any additional titles won’t be possible; PlayStation 3, PSP, and Vita players looking to add to their collections will have to do so with physical discs and cartridges in future.
Sony has been generous to support all three machines digitally for as long as they have. Maintaining a digital shop on three different, out-of-date systems is not free, and even just patching security issues and exploits takes time and costs money. Considering that the number of people using these older systems’ shops must be absolutely minuscule by now, it was probably veering close to loss-making territory just to keep them in working order.
Sony has been badly hurt in the past by exploits in the PlayStation Store. In 2011, a hack exposed millions of users’ information, including credit card and bank numbers, as well as other personal information. This hack was hugely damaging to Sony’s brand, and left the PlayStation Network offline for almost a month. For obvious reasons, Sony can’t afford a repeat of this, so shutting down the shops that hardly anyone is using on two old machines and one failure makes perfect sense.
The PlayStation Store handles users’ private information and financial information, so any exploits hackers find could potentially see a repeat of the 2011 attack. Even if Sony kept PlayStation 4 and 5 players’ data wholly separate, a hack could still expose the data of anyone who’d ever bought anything on PlayStation 3, PSP, or Vita – and that’s an unacceptable risk.
As technology improves, older, simpler systems become much more susceptible to this kind of cyber attack. Newer software is more sophisticated, and hackers are thus able to more easily break into older systems. This is why Microsoft has ended support for older versions of Windows, for example, because maintaining them and keeping them secure is increasingly a full-time job – and if practically nobody is using those systems, why bother?
That’s not to say that there won’t be consequences for this shutdown, though. Sony has not been great when it comes to backwards compatibility, either on PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 5, and there will be some older PlayStation 3 games that were either digital-only or only saw limited disc releases that will be much more difficult to access as a result of this decision. Indie titles like Fat Princess or the HD version of Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 are currently only available on PlayStation 3 digitally, and will no longer be available to purchase after the shop closes.
Likewise, a number of PSP and Vita titles that were digital-only will no longer be available.
However, as we have seen with older consoles like the SNES, Dreamcast, and PlayStation 2, emulation will still offer players a way to access most of these titles. Game preservation used to be a fairly niche activity, existing in a legal grey area, but nowadays a lot of people take it very seriously. There are still games that are entirely out of print, but you can find many copies of older games – even completely obscure titles released on unsuccessful hardware. There are functioning emulators already for PSP and PlayStation 3, and Vita emulation is being worked on. Give it a few years and most, if not all, of the digital-only titles on these systems will be preserved and available to play.
At the end of the day, this decision from Sony is going to disappoint a small number of gamers who still regularly use these older systems. But the vast majority of folks have already moved on; PlayStation 3 is now two generations out-of-date, PSP is older too, and hardly anyone bought a Vita. Sony is making a sensible business decision, and considering how long it’s been since any of these machines were relevant, it’s hardly one that can be said to be unexpected.
Given that there has been this misinformation flying around about “games being deleted,” I wanted to add my two cents to the conversation and clarify that nobody is going to delete your games. If you buy a game and download it before the shops close – and at time of writing they are still open and accepting new purchases – you will literally notice nothing. All of those games will still be there on your console for as long as the machine itself lasts, and if you find yourself in possession of a rare, obscure title that you feel needs to be preserved for posterity and for the enjoyment of future generations, then I daresay you can figure out how to do so!
It’s always worth taking a deep breath when you hear news like this. Rationally think through what’s being said and try to figure out what’s really going on. “All PlayStation 3 Games Are Being Deleted!!!1!” may bring in a lot of clicks on social media, but it’s patently false. Promoters of such clickbait should be ashamed. And now you know the real story – buying new titles on those old machines will be impossible, but no one is going to delete your games.
The PlayStation brand – including PlayStation 3, PSP, and others mentioned above – is the copyright of Sony Interactive Entertainment. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.