Three weeks ago, Sony made a climactic decision that would have rewritten over 27 years of video game history: execs had announced the imminent shutdown of numerous PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita digital titles. The company was pulling out online support for both platforms this summer, a controversial move that would have effectively erased all retro games from the PlayStation Store. Public outcry immediately followed. Three weeks later, Sony bigwigs did the unthinkable: they listened to the fans and promptly rescinded their decision. Online support for PS3 and PS Vita games will now continue as normal. The digital store is officially here to stay. PlayStation Portable (PSP) functionality, however, will retire as planned on July 2.
Jim Ryan, president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, addressed customers in a lengthy statement on the PlayStation blog. “Upon further reflection, however, it’s clear that we made the wrong decision here. So today I’m happy to say that we will be keeping the PlayStation Store operational for PS3 and PS Vita devices. PSP commerce functionality will retire on July 2, 2021 as planned,” he writes.
“When we initially came to the decision to end purchasing support for PS3 and PS Vita, it was born out of a number of factors, including commerce support challenges for older devices and the ability for us to focus more of our resources on newer devices where a majority of our gamers are playing on. We see now that many of you are incredibly passionate about being able to continue purchasing classic games on PS3 and PS Vita for the foreseeable future, so I’m glad we were able to find a solution to continue operations. I’m glad that we can keep this piece of our history alive for gamers to enjoy, while we continue to create cutting-edge new game worlds for PS4, PS5, and the next generation of VR.” Ryan humbly closed his statement on the PlayStation Store controversy by reiterating part of the company’s vision and mission, which is that customer feedback is (and will forever be) a crucial factor when making large-scale corporate decisions. The fans’ enjoyment will always come first.
If there’s anything remotely decisive social media has afforded the masses, it’s the power to provoke change wherever (and whenever) the situation demands it, as was the case with the PlayStation Store. Fandoms used to be an overlooked minority, their individual voices hardly acknowledged by the corporations that engendered them. These days, fans have an unprecedented level of authority, capable of confronting businesses head-on and imposing their will on hapless creators. So when changes happen to the PlayStation Store, fans have a real say. Some days, fans speaking up is nothing short of productive. Online petitions allowed Zack Snyder to finally complete his magnum opus. Tom Holland’s third solo outing as the wallcrawler will feature previous Spider-Men, and Charlie Cox’s Daredevil. Sonic the Hedgehog in his titular movie no longer resembled a spray-painted humanoid rodent.
While this power was used on the PlayStation Store and in the above examples, it can sometimes turn dark. Remember when Insomniac Games changed Peter Parker’s mo-cap face for the PlayStation 5? What about the widespread social media “canceling” of every single person that liked the Star Wars sequels or even mildly criticized Snyder’s films? What about all the actors forced to rage quit in response to relentless online abuse? Yeah, not cool. Fandoms have become the poster kids of Internet mobocracy, infamous for bullying creators and corporations into goose-stepping to their every demand at the risk of widespread boycotting and further harassment. The capacity to express dissent in a civilized, affable manner is the pinnacle of human reason — and mob-inspired cancel culture is the very opposite of prudence. Fortunately, in the case of Sony and the future of the PlayStation Store, it’s the former.