Sony just announced it wants to charge gamers $100 for 20 games from the mid-1990s.
The PlayStation Classic, as it's called, looks like the original PlayStation, but is only 45 percent its size, connects to a TV via HDMI, and comes with 20 PlayStation games like Final Fantasy VII, Jumping Flash, Ridge Racer Type 4, Tekken 3, and Wild Arms. Sony is currently taking pre-orders for this device for $100, but has yet to reveal the full list of games it will come with.
This is an obvious, inevitable business decision for Sony. Nintendo's NES Classic Edition and Super NES decisions were a huge success. The original PlayStation was a hugely important console that people are nostalgic for as well, and I'm sure millions of them will happily pay $100 to play the greatest hits again.
There’s nothing wrong with the PlayStation Classic if you want to drop the cash on another hunk of plastic that’ll gather dust below your television. Maybe you don't have a PlayStation 3 hooked up to your TV right now or a PlayStation Vita, which can play a lot of these games, or a real, original PlayStation. Maybe you don't have the time and energy to figure out how to emulate these games on any number of devices. If you want to pay $100 to play Tekken 3 again, that's fine.
But if you’ve already got a modern console, a desktop computer, a Raspberry Pi, or even an SNES Classic, you’ve already got a machine that can emulate old PlayStation games. The NES classic and SNES classic are, on a hardware level, the exact same device. The only difference is software and lots of people have modified that software to run old games. An Xbox One in developer mode is also commonly used to run the software and games needed to bring old favorites back to the television.
None of these are as easy as buying a PlayStation Classic, and all of them come with various potential legal pitfalls and the risk of bricking your device. But people use them for this reason nonetheless—and emulation gives access to more games and comes with the side effect of saving the world another piece of plastic to recycle. People have even figured out how to use original PlayStation controllers with emulators.
As always when it comes to emulation, it's important to note that while this is very easy to do, it's often illegal. Emulators themselves are not breaking any laws, but even if you own a legitimate copy of a game, downloading a version of it from the internet you can run in an emulator is blatantly violating copyright law.
Of course, people wouldn't be so inclined to do this if game companies offered a service that was as good as what emulation offers, even if it cost money.
There’s a reason people love Spotify, Netflix, and all the other streaming services—they make it easy to see whatever you want or listen to whatever you want. If I want to watch a movie I’ve never seen, there’s a good chance one of the streaming services can serve that up. There’s no comparable service for video games. Instead, my options are to either buy another expensive piece of plastic or put the time and energy into modding and hacking machines I already own. It doesn’t have to be this way.
I hope the PlayStation Classic will include games I loved like Metal Gear Solid, Suikoden, and Tenchu, but I’m not holding my breath, and I'm definitely not spending $100 before I know for sure.