Sony’s decision to lock classic games behind subscriptions is lousy

Just let me buy my games, Sony!

4 mins read

Overnight Sony unveiled the much-expected competitor to Microsoft’s Game Pass – an upgrade to PlayStation Plus that would see it now split across three “tiers” of service, and the most expensive tier (a little over $100/year, depending on local pricing) will have over 700 games, including titles from the original PlayStation, PS2, PS3 and PSP (no PlayStation Vita though).

Now, it’s great that Sony has figured out emulation for the old consoles (though PlayStation 3 is available via streaming only, the other platforms have download options). The problem is that all this content is only going to be available through subscription services. If you’re not a subscriber, then no classic games for you.

I’ve written about and spoken out against subscription services often enough now. It barely deserves repeating at this point, but anyone who thinks it’s a good thing that games are only available by the graces of a corporation is deluding themselves. Putting concerns about Sony’s ability to simply shut off the services at some point aside (and with that wipe the entire library of games), this is a company that has proven to be increasingly censorious about what it allows on to its platform. Do you think that games that Sony considers to be offensive will be allowed on to this service? Or games that, down the track, Sony decides are no longer appropriate? The PlayStation 3 in particular was a happy hunting ground for developers of subversive or niche material, and we can only imagine just how selective Sony’s going to get about what classics it considers are worth remembering.

Subscription services are walled gardens, and it is high time that people understand that there are long-term consequences to ceding editorial control over what we can access and play to a company whose interests lie in avoiding any kind of controversy over content.

What really sucks is that we’re all going to reward Sony by buying into this walled garden, because we are going to want access to what’s there, and while the PlayStation Plus service will be highly compromised as an archive and source of classic gaming, it’s still something. I bought into Nintendo’s service, and I’m going to do the same here, and no doubt I’ll enjoy what is on offer. I’ll be part of the problem for sure.

That is… if it ever actually launches in Australia. For now, when the service launches in June, it will only be available in the US, UK, Europe and Japan. There’s no news of an Australian release date, or even window, at this stage. (Update: Apparently is IS now coming to Australia in June. Australian availability and pricing wasn’t on the original blog post, but Sony Australia has since confirmed that we will be on the first wave too)

Ah well. Emulation consoles from China are a hair’s breadth away from being able to handle PS2 games, and already does PSP and PSOne perfectly fine. Even if Sony won’t give me Dead or Alive Paradise – and there’s surely no way that game’s on the list of PSP titles – it’s not like I don’t have options.

Matt S. is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of DDNet. He's been writing about games for over 20 years, including a book, but is perhaps best-known for being the high priest of the Church of Hatsune Miku.

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