Since the seventh generation of home gaming consoles, including the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the gaming industry has become more entrenched in the world of digital storefronts. When companies started making it easier to buy new games without a trip to the local game store, plenty of players jumped on the digital train. However, fast-forward a decade or two, and now those same storefronts are starting to close down. What does that mean for the future of gaming? As services like the PlayStation Store start shutting down, gamers are often left in the cold. Let’s take a look at the emerging issue of digital gaming storefront closure and examine just how badly it will impact how we buy software in the future.
"The inevitable closures of these digital stores might be disheartening, but it's a good moment to recognize the staying power of physical media and the importance of backing up your digital content."
The Impending Doom of Digital Gaming Storefronts
The closure of gaming storefronts is nothing new, as PC players will be the first to tell you. After Steam launched in 2003, plenty of other companies attempted to jump on the bandwagon, releasing their own digital stores. When those stores failed to gain traction, many of them shut down completely, leaving gamers with empty wallets but no games to show for it. Now, the world of console gaming is primed for a similar state of impending doom, as big companies like Sony and Nintendo gear up to close up some of their storefronts for older systems.
In early 2021, Sony announced that they would be shutting down the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita digital storefronts by the end of the summer. After a surplus of fan outcry, Sony reversed their decision, but still chose to phase out support for the PlayStation Portable. Similarly, Microsoft has begun shutting down some game-specific servers on the Xbox 360, while keeping the core store up and running. While there are no official plans from Sony or Microsoft regarding the complete closure of seventh-generation digital stores, it’s bound to come sooner than later.
Why does this matter, though? Even if a store closes, you should still be able to access your game library, right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. If you don’t have every digital game you own downloaded to your Xbox or PlayStation hard drive, you may have no way to re-download them again. As a further detriment, games will no longer be able to be patched or updated, so your physical copies might just be buggy, glitch-filled messes.
The Future of Digital Games
The inevitable closures of these digital stores might be disheartening, but it’s a good moment to recognize the staying power of physical media and the importance of backing up your digital content. If you’re a gamer who has a digital library of hundreds of games, it might be a good idea to invest in a few extra hard drives and ensure you have copies of all of your games. Although big companies will usually give you a heads up when a digital store is closing, you can never be 100% sure. Look no further than the case of The Simpsons Arcade Game, a classic Xbox 360 downloadable game that was removed unceremoniously from the store and can no longer be downloaded, even if you own the license. Worse yet, that was the only console version of the game ever released, making it a near-impossible game to find and play now (unless you want to spend $400 on a replica arcade cabinet).