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Sony’s PlayStation Network suspensions demonstrate disc-free downsides

Jaap Arriens—NurPhoto/Getty Images

Monday was not been a good time to be a PlayStation Network user—particularly one who only has downloaded versions of the games they play.

As recounted in multiple panicked Reddit threads and I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Twitter posts, Sony’s gaming network yesterday hit many PSN users with permanent suspension notices, for no apparent reason. Many people were able to log in again after several hours, though it seems some were shut out for longer.

Frustratingly for those affected, Sony did not explain what was behind the incident; at the time of publication, the company still hasn’t even publicly acknowledged it. But whatever the cause, the snafu got a lot of PS4 and PS5 users discussing the downsides of going digital-only. As one Reddit user put it: “That's why I always buy disc. Once something happens to your PSN account, all of that money is gone.”

Now, obviously, physical media have their downsides too, as anyone who’s ever sworn at a janky CD or DVD player will attest—amusingly, the most recent X post from the official PlayStation North America support account is about PS5 disc troubleshooting, rather than yesterday’s disc-free disaster. Discs can get scratched and they can rot. Downloading or streaming content is far more convenient, especially when you’re on the move.

But taking the digital-only route means giving up control over the stuff you’ve bought—you generally can’t resell it and, if it requires a network's nod to function, you’re dependent on a service provider for continuous access.

I’ve had a couple of annoying encounters with this phenomenon recently, in the musical realm. On one occasion, I had the urge to listen to one of my favorite German bands, Grossstadtgeflüster (“Big City Whisper”) on Spotify, only to discover that their second and arguably best album is missing from their catalog there. On another, I remembered the existence of an album by an Australian indie band that I listened to back in the '90s—Frente’s Shape—but found that the version on Spotify contains different edits of some of my favorite tracks, thus leaving my nostalgia thirst only partially quenched.

Luckily, I have both those albums in my CD collection, which has been sitting in boxes for the last decade or so. I don’t have a CD player anymore—but I did rip my collection before putting it into storage, so the music isn’t lost to me. And one day, if I ever become a proper old crank who only listens to the music of his youth, I may even be able to stop paying streaming subscription fees. Now that’s convenience.

More news below.

David Meyer

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