Opinion : Sony’s Digital Frontier Needs Updating

It is no surprise that we are swiftly spiraling into the digital age. With cloud gaming on the rise thanks to many companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon; it is clear that our future will eventually transform. Our experiences continue to stand on the hard-disk foundation, which means that even though we are looking at the turning point ahead, we cannot forgo our current situation. Fortunately, we have seen many companies starting to adhere to the necessities of our future, and most companies have changed their policies in accordance.

…well… except Sony.

Microsoft has seemed to embrace this new future with gusto. The Xbox Series S model is a fantastic introduction into the digital age. The small form factor is breathtakingly stunning when you consider the raw power that rests inside its plastic chassis. The one aspect that continues to boggle the minds of many is the lack of a disk drive. From one perspective, one can see that being a big misstep when it comes to public ideology. People are used to the disk drive and the comfort it brings. Taking advantage of GameStop’s flimsy return policy is something that many people would like to entertain. I myself have seen my fair share of “game swappers,” folks who exchange used games multiple times without paying an additional cent. 

Without the comfort of a disk drive, many people seem disillusioned. And many gamers can see how this product, the Series S, can be seen as a catalyst for “anti-consumer” practices, as it takes away a coveted option. Alas, Microsoft seemed to have been prepared for this moment as early as 2017 when they implemented a new, up-to-date digital policy, akin to PC client Steam.

This policy states that any game, digitally, can be returned within a 14-day period and you can have up to two-hours of playtime. It’s a fantastic policy if you have a Series S or a mostly digital library like myself. It’s a fantastic feature that is clearly not considered nor discussed nearly enough. Some games don’t have enough time to fully breathe within that two-hour period, which is understandable. For me, I can get the flow and see if a game is going to be worth my time or not almost right away. I’ll note here that DLC, season passes, and add-ons are not able to be refunded.

But as Microsoft embraces this change, someone on the other side of the aisle fails to catch up to the modern trend. That is Sony. Much like their market competitor, the PlayStation 5 released with two versions, a disk-based version and a diskless, aka “Digital” version of the console. 

Sony’s take on the digital market is the complete opposite, and it needs to be recognized. According to Sony’s website and policy, you are only eligible for a refund if the game hasn’t started downloading, which is absolutely an atrocious policy especially when they are branding themselves into a position where they recognize said digital market.

There is a big caveat to this experience at hand, which goes beyond a sense of reason. For example, I purchased Watch Dogs Legion, a game that was favorably reviewed by this outlet. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped I would. I have my reasons, but because I purchased and played this on Sony’s ecosystem, I am now unable to return it. I only purchased it because the reviews said the game was good. So now what do I do with this piece of metaphoric digital trash?

Another flaw that rests within the standards set by Sony seems to rest within the concept of downloading the game. I can purchase the game on my phone, but the second a single megabyte downloads to my console via rest mode, I can’t get a refund? This is an unfortunate aspect that Sony needs to change immediately. Otherwise it could leave a lot of folks stepping back from playing titles. I know it’s highly unlikely, but if Sony is trying to win over a digital consumer market, then this would be something more friendly to their fans. After all, game demos have been a long forgotten concept.

Giving players the chance to refund their digital games might not seem that big of a deal to you, but there are many who are stuck with titles they will never finish because the game doesn’t adhere to their tastes. There is no real way to experience a game until you are holding that controller in your hands, and witnessing what it has to offer you first-hand.

Just to be clear, this is not a statement of flagrant fanboyism. I am not a person who aligns themselves with a particular brand. As much as I am enjoying my own PlayStation 5, I am willing to call out its detriments and failings, this being one of them. I am hoping Sony changes this policy in the near future. I would hate to see a lot of digital console owners stuck with a copy of Godfall for all eternity.

By Steve Esposito

Steve Esposito is a dedicated content creator with a focus on his love for technology, video games, and the very industry that oversees it all. He also takes part in organizing the Long Island Retro and Tabletop Gaming Expo as well as a Dungeons and Dragons podcast: Copper Piece. You can find him on twitter @AgitatedStove

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