Like many gamers, I was pretty bummed to hear about the shutdown of the PlayStation Network for the PlayStation 3. Originally, fans had only until July 2nd to purchase digital content for the PS3 and PlayStation Portable. PlayStation Vita users had a little more leniency, having until August 27th. After hearing voices from their user base, Sony has decided to continue to let users purchase digital products for the PS3 and Vita. The victory is pretty significant, as it’s rare for big time companies to listen to their fans.
The importance of the PlayStation Network on the PS3 and the Vita stems from much more than just being able to purchase games from their respective generations. Both consoles give players legal access to legacy content from Sony’s history.
Having already dealt with the discontinuation of the Wii Shop Channel, I wasn’t ready to see another online service close its doors. I like many, love being able to actually purchase retro games both familiar and new. As a result, I’ve decided to put this article together to discuss what both companies and fans can do to better preserve classic games.
Reading The Fine Print
Reading any contract or user agreement is anyone’s greatest weapon. It’s easy for gamers to just scroll through the text, check a box, and jump right into the fun.
Under a clause titled “Limited Use License”, Bandai Namco states that they grant me a “nonexclusive, nontransferable, limited license” for the software. After reading the End User License Agreement(EULA) from Sega, Sony and even Nintendo, I realize that all digital content operate on this agreement. Even physical content is and always has been a form of limited license.
While physical content might give us a greater sense of control, we still purchase only the license to use the software. The pill is tough to swallow, but the fact is we never truly own our games. Once the majority of consumers realize that, the harder it will be for people to take advantage of the community.
When we purchase a game digitally, we don’t buy the game itself — we buy a license. I’m fine with that, but a big problem is the inability to transfer my license to the next generation.
The ecosystem for video games is not the same as it was when I was a child. There are online stores for every current system out on the market, yet gamers have to sometimes pay retail prices for ports of classic games that may or may not include extra features.
It’s never a guarantee that all classic games see life on a gaming service. We’re even starting to see some digital games purposefully have time-limited releases, such as Super Mario Bros. 35. I can’t stress enough how important it is for the community to not let this become a standard.
There is no reason as to why legacy content can’t be released in a consistent, organized and reasonable manner when all three of the big game companies have online stores. I understand that not every retro game will be available and I get that bringing them costs money and resources. Still, both of this can be done without forcing fans to hemorrhage cash or keeping certain games in a metaphorical vault.
I don’t see why the licenses for digital purchases can’t work in a similar fashion to a driver’s license. At this point, I’d be more than willing to pay some sort of transfer or renewal fee. Nintendo did something similar with the Wii U virtual console, making players pay a reduced price for titles they already owned on the original Wii.
This system can be beneficial to both companies and consumers. By renewing a license, companies can guarantee that most legacy content will be legally and readily available during the next generation. At the same time, they can revoke and suspend licenses from people who illegally copy and distribute software.
The idea of being able to download and play classic games on current generation hardware is what sold me on the Wii back when it was announced.
I still give both the Wii and PS3 praise for providing efficient and reasonable legacy services. The Virtual Console and PlayStation Classics gave users the chance to relive their favorite games. They also provided us the chance to play titles we missed out on back in the day. I thought that these services would become a beloved standard in gaming. However, the concept is currently poorly executed at best or used to milk consumers dry at worst.
With the advances in technology today, legacy services should be on the rise, not on the decline. The true nature regarding ownership of all digital purchases shouldn’t remain buried in text, but brought to the forefront. These games and their preservation matter. There are still plenty of gamers with an interest in legacy content. As it stands, retro games are facing the hurdle of high price tags, and neglect. If companies truly put forth the effort, they’ll discover the payoff is well worth it.
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