What Sony's Game Stores Closing Down Could Mean to Players

A big part of video game history is about to vanish

Key Takeaways

  • A verified leak indicates that Sony plans to shut down the digital storefronts for three of its old consoles this summer.
  • The PlayStation Vita was a sales flop but still has a devoted following.
  • The race is on for collectors and historians to preserve as much as possible.
A grandparent and grandchild, with the child playing with a portable video game.
Alain Schroeder / Getty Images

The race is on for video game collectors and historians to preserve as much of the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita's digital libraries as possible before Sony shuts them both down for good.

A rumor appeared this week that Sony will shut down the online storefronts for three of its old consoles—the PlayStation 3, Vita, and PlayStation Portable—this summer. Once that happens, owners won't be able to buy content digitally for each system, which has the potential to take dozens of old video games out of circulation.

Sony has yet to comment on the issue officially, but this was inevitable. It’s impressive that Sony held out this long—the PSP has been discontinued for over seven years—before pulling the plug. Once it does shut everything down, however, whether it's this summer or at some point afterward, it'll be the end of an era.

"There's a lot of history that's at risk of disappearing here."

Gaming Graveyards

We've seen this scenario happen once before when Nintendo shut down the Wii Shop channel in 2019, and with it, many digital-exclusive Wiiware games. For want of a better term, and until further notice, they're "dead."

The same could happen with the PS3/PSP/Vita games on the PlayStation Network. Sony removed these games from the online store, so the only way to buy them is to boot up the console and buy them from the store app. Once Sony shuts that option off, those games might be gone for good.

Closeup of a PlayStation 3 with a controller.
Nikita Kostrykin / Unsplash

Another issue comes from the PS3's physical library. While several PS3 games have been ported to the PS4 via rereleases like Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection or the PS Now streaming service, many of them are still stuck on their original system. This is reportedly due to the PS3's Cell processor, which was overpowered for the time, but was also extraordinarily hard to work with.

While you can still play these games by buying used copies, an end to PlayStation Network support for the PS3 also means you can't buy downloadable content for PS3 games. That doesn't always matter, but it does take some value away from titles like BioShock 2, Fallout: New Vegas, or Rock Band. Retro gamers beware.

What to Watch Out For

There are around 50 games at the time of writing that are in danger of disappearing when the PlayStation 3's store gets shut down. Some of the best include Savage Moon, Trash Panic, House of the Dead 4, Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty, Echochrome, and Lumines Supernova. (If your hard drive's full, remember you can store PS3 data on any USB drive.)

The absolute must-get of the lot is Tokyo Jungle, a cult favorite about animals trying to survive in post-apocalyptic Japan. It's a digital exclusive in North America, and every couple of years, a new group of fans discovers it. Take your turn now while you still can.

The PS3, PSP, and Vita also feature a huge number of PSOne and PS2 ports, including games that have since gone out of print. You can spend hundreds of dollars on eBay finding classic JRPGs like Suikoden II or Chrono Cross or pick them up for a relative song on PSN.

The Vita's exclusive library is relatively small, as the system didn't last very long. You'll want Uncharted: Golden Abyss, which has Vita-specific gameplay that may guarantee it'll never get ported, and Killzone: Mercenary.

Fans of spectacular train wrecks should also pick up Silent Hill: Book of Memories, an attempt by Konami to make the horror series into, of all things, a dungeon crawler.

There's a lot of history that's at risk of disappearing here. The PS3, in particular, has a vast digital selection of classic ports, quirky indies, and niche craziness.

While it isn't realistic to expect Sony to continue to support three dead systems' online storefronts forever, it highlights that one of the most significant weaknesses of the PlayStation 4 and 5 is their abandonment of backward compatibility.

Sony seems intent on accelerating away from its past and exploring the PS3's library in 2021. That might be its biggest overall mistake.

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