Game preservationists are concerned that the new PS5 Slim’s attachable disc drive could prevent owners from playing physical disc games in the future.
Game preservation website Does It Play? is a website that works to ensure physical games remain accessible and playable now and in the future. The website contains a searchable database of physical games and provides information on whether the game can be played offline. So, for example, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor which doesn’t actually have the game on the disc and requires a download, wouldn’t pass their preservation test.
It has been known since before the PS5 Slim launched in the US yesterday that the attachable disc drive requires an internet connection. The attachable drive is found on the disc model of the PS5 Slim and can be bought separately and attached to the PS5 Slim digital edition.
Does It Play’s concerns stem not just from the fact that the drive requires an internet connection to paint it to the console but that it requires authentication from Sony’s servers to get paired to the PS5 Slim.
Does it Play found that performing a reset on the PS5 Slim will unregister the disc drive. On starting up the PS5 Slim again, owners will need to re-register the drive. The concern here is that if the service (Sony’s authentication servers) gets shut down at some point in the future, then this renders the drive useless. Thus it is not game preservation friendly as you would presumably not be able to use any disc-based games on that particular console.
A Game Preservation issue or a non-issue?
Let me paint you a scenario. Sometime in the future, let’s say 15 years, the PlayStation 7 is out. You are thoroughly enjoying whatever new gaming technology and realistic graphics the PS7 has to offer but you yearn for some nostalgia. You decide to dust off your old PS5 Slim with its detachable disc drive and pop in a disc copy of Horizon Forbidden West that you bought off eBay.
Your PS5 Slim has been sitting for so long that it isn’t working correctly, so you decide to perform a full factory reset. The PS5 Slim resets but the disc drive won’t register. Looks like Sony has shut down the authentication servers. This renders the attachable disc drive and your collection of retro PS5 physical games useless.
You could argue that this is a bit of a non-issue as PlayStation will probably exist for many, many years right? Probably, yes. But if we think far ahead into the future, we just don’t know what PlayStation Network will look like, or whether Sony and PlayStation will still exist in their current form.
So Does It Play does have a genuine reason for considering the PS5 Slim’s disc drive as being a “massive preservation issue.”
Thousands of games could be lost
The point I think Does it Play is trying to make is that it potentially stops thousands of disc-based games from being played.
If we look at Babylon’s Fall, for example, this was a game that was sold on disc, for full price. It was however also a live-service game. Sure you can probably still install the game on your console, but it was entirely online and Square Enix shut down the servers after about a year. Rendering the game completely unplayable in any capacity.
PlayStation recently revealed that over 2,500 games were brought to PS5 in its first 3 years of release. If the pS5 generation lasts another 4 or 5 years that is potentially thousands more. A lot of which will also be sold on disc. The PS5 and the newest Slim model is also backwards compatible with PS4 games. The PS4 will most likely have far more physical, disc-based games than the PS5, so that’s thousands more games that may be potentially unplayable on your PS5 Slim sometime in the future.
We also know from Sony that the PS5 Slim will be the only PS5 model available after stocks are depleted of the original PS5. So, in the future, it could be difficult to find an original PS5 or even a PS4 for that matter. And you may not want to spend extra money on acquiring these retro consoles, you might just want to use the PS5 Slim you already own.
A disc drive that requires an internet connection to work flys in the face of physical games
To conclude, I agree with Does it Play and the game preservation community. The PS5 Slim as it is currently does pose a massive issue for game preservation in the future. Digital-only games are probably much harder to preserve. We have already witnessed developers and publishers de-listing, shutting down and otherwise making some games unplayable.
This leaves physical, disc-based games as the only real way to preserve games for the future. But if the consoles that can play these games are lost to time or the services that link the disc drive to the consoles no longer exist, then that makes the games unplayable. And potentially the amazing games that we enjoy today like The Last of Us, Spider-Man 2 and the games to be released in the near future may become lost to time as well.
Sony needs to patch the PS5 Slim or the disc drive to remove the requirement for an internet connection and authentication. Such a requirement seems to fly in the face of what physical games represent, a way to preserve games for future generations. It is the same as physical games having nothing more than an executable on the disc that downloads the game. Or only having some of the game on the disc, or having an online-only game that becomes unplayable once the servers are gone.
We can only hope that Sony sees their error with the PS5 Slim’s attachable disc drive. Otherwise, at some point in the future, your collection of physical games might become unplayable.