Rumor: Sony to shut down PlayStation 3, PSP, PS Vita digital stores
After changes last year that made it harder to purchase digital titles for the company’s older game platforms, Sony may now be looking to shut down the digital stores for PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, and PlayStation Vita for good.
Back in October of last year, Sony announced that it would be removing the ability to purchase games for those platforms either via the PlayStation Store website or mobile app. That change came due to the company launching an all-new digital store, which—in my opinion, and I’m not alone in this—is a notable step down from the functionality of what we had before.
Past October 2021, the only way to purchase games for those platforms digitally has been to access the PlayStation Store through the systems themselves. Unfortunately, that option may now be on the chopping block as well.
This morning, TheGamer.com published a story saying that a source “familiar with the situation” told the website that “PSP’s and PS3’s stores are to be closed on July 2, while the PS Vita store will stay open until August 27. After those dates, you will no longer be able to purchase digital copies of games or DLC for any of the Sony consoles mentioned above.” According to the article, Sony will be announcing the shutdowns later this month.
While this is of course still a rumor, a secondary source came forward to seemingly confirm that the shutdown would be taking place. Scourge Bringer director Thomas Altenburger has been working on a Vita port of the game, and had the following to say across a series of (now removed) tweets:
I guess we can safely say that ScourgeBringer will be the last title (its internal ID is “THELASTVITAGAME”), with a limited distribution of only 4 months.
[When asked if he knew about the shutdown going into the Vita port]
We knew. We were the very last game to be approved and produced. We just didn’t know for how long the store would remain open.
[When someone wondered aloud if the rumors were true]
What I know for sure is that they already locked everything up from the developer side of things for months now. So it sounds very much likely.Thomas Altenburger
If this is indeed true, after the store shutdowns happen, anyone who has purchased games for those three platforms should still be able to download games they’ve already purchased.
However, that isn’t necessarily guaranteed. Sony has at least one example in its history of totally locking customers out from their digital game purchases depending on their situation: PlayStation Mobile. In March 2015, Sony announced it would shut the PS Mobile program down, and any Vita owners who wanted to continue to download and play their games needed to authorize their system before September 10th of that year. Unfortunately for me, I upgraded from my original OLED Vita to a Vita 2000 after that date, meaning I could no longer access any of my PS Mobile purchases.
And, to make things worse, thing story could get even more complicated. Twitter account Does it Play? represents a group that “test games for the sake of media preservation and accessibility.” According to the account—and to be clear, none of us here at EGM can confirm these details at this time—”the PS3 modding community better come up with a way to alter the kernel clock stat. If Sony are starting to shutter services on PS3 eventually this will stop you being able to sync the clock and all those digital games get nuked even if you rush and buy them now.”
The account goes on to say that “PS4 cmos battery death kills the disc playback also,” upon which they expanded by stating “everyone worrying about a non existent Denuvo problem when what they should be worrying about is ERROR CE 34878-0. When the ps4 cmos battery dies (and it will) it renders all ps4 digital files unusable without a server reconnection and in ps4 it also kills disc playback.”
Why is this important? Well, if testing proves that there could be issues playing digital PS3 games in the future, that puts a bit of a hamper on the idea of buying up a bunch of digital content before it disappears. Now, to be clear, even if the CMOS batter problem is a problem, there’s still a few things that need to happen for it to render digital PS3 games unplayable under the proposed scenario.
Again, though, there is an example of a library of PlayStation titles no longer being playable for many due to the shutting down of activation servers, and we have no idea how long Sony might support similar activation for hardware like the PS3. People around the world are still playing NES games to this day, and that console came out 38 years ago. Will people still be playing the PlayStation 3 in 2044? Quite possibly. Will Sony still be supporting its activation servers 23 years from now? That’s hard to tell.
One of the responses to the store shutdowns will no doubt be that people should “just go buy the games physically then.” Sure, that’s an option for some titles—but much harder for the ones that have shot up in price and rarity. Due to the cycle of retro game popularity, the PS3’s library isn’t terribly expensive just yet, but as we get further away from the console’s heyday, and the games get harder to find or copies succumb to wear and tear, those prices are absolutely going to go up. Some PSP games have already shot up in price—I’m especially looking at you, Persona games—and even some of the Vita’s library doesn’t come cheap anymore. And then, what happens to all of those releases that were only ever digital, such as the North American PS3 release of Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2, the Vita versions of the Persona 3 and Persona 5 dancing games, or one of my absolute favorite horror games, Corpse Party on the PSP? Or, what could this mean for important game patches or DLC, the latter of which at the least will be gone even if you already own the base game?
They could all be gone for anyone who didn’t purchase them soon enough—perhaps even permanently if Sony doesn’t kick its backward-compatibility efforts back up again. The future of video games is bright thanks to the new opportunities digital distribution offers, but it’s also growing ever darker in terms of game preservation and keeping our industry’s history alive.
If all of this ends up being true, the one thing that’s giving me hope is that the shutdowns are scheduled for post-E3 (at least in terms of when E3 usually happens). Perhaps at the rumored announcement later this month, or something connected with whatever replaces traditional E3 events this year, Sony will reveal some new option for keeping these games alive and well.
Mollie got her start in games media via the crazy world of gaming fanzines, and now works at EGM with the goal of covering all of the weird Japanese and niche releases that nobody else on staff cares about. She’s active in the gaming community on a personal level, and an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming, consumer rights, and good UI. Check her out on Twitter and Mastodon.