According to VGC, “138 PlayStation games will no longer be available for purchase in any form when Sony closes the PSP, PS Vita and PS3 stores this summer.” And hundreds of others will become Xbox or PC exclusives. But why should you care? What does the shuttering of some PlayStation stores mean for virtual distribution? Let’s break it down.

 

What is virtual distribution?

Overall, it’s the delivery of a product or service 100% online; either directly or via an online aggregate storefront. So, some examples of digital distributors are iTunes, Google Play, Netflix, Kindle, Xbox Store, PlayStation Store and Steam. Usually, the products are downloaded from the cloud to the buyer’s device. Depending on the service, the content may be ‘permanently owned’ or rented via a subscription or one-time charge. Think movie rentals on Amazon Video or Xbox’s Game Pass service. These are rental digital distribution platforms. Whereas you ‘own’ a Kindle nook once you purchase it.

 

Why is PlayStation’s decision worrying?

It throws up some concerns about the true ownership of digital goods and hardware. Not only does it mean that you can’t get new content for these older devices, but some games will be gone forever. Den of Geek articulates the issue well, “What’s so frustrating is that Sony does clearly [have] the ability to allow you to access older games digitally because that’s the exact function that they’re choosing to shut down for reasons which currently don’t extend beyond “We don’t think people use these consoles anymore or care about these games. If they announced they were discontinuing their support of the PlayStation store on those platforms because they were expanding that support to PS4 and PS5, then there wouldn’t really be a problem.” But that’s not what is happening. They are just shutting down support. This may infringe on the consumer rights of the PSP, Vita and PS3 owners too.

 

Is this an isolated issue?

Probably not. As more entertainment moves to digital distribution, older services will likely continue to get shut down to make room for new platforms. And the video game industry is just the most prominent example. Something similar recently happened with Google Music too. They’re really nothing in the terms of use to prevent the shutdown of most services you rely on like Spotify, Kindle, Google Drive. All we can really do is rally against decisions like these to protect the consumer rights of every person (and business) who purchases digital goods.

 

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