The PlayStation Classic Is a Flop. Here’s Why That Matters for Retro Gamers

I jumped aboard the hype train when the PlayStation Classic was announced, preordering right away. $100 was a bit steep, and I knew there would only be about 20 games, but I’m a collector. At best, I’d have an SNES Classic-caliber mini console that plays awesome PS1 games. At worst, I’d have a cute li’l PlayStation model to put on my shelf.

When the announcement was made detailing the included games, many gamers cancelled their preorders. I was not one of them. The selection was, admittedly, pretty poor — more on that later — but I figured hey, I’m in it for the long haul. Plus, I’ve never played Wild Arms, one of my few PS1-era RPG oversights, so I’d at least have that to look forward to.

The PlayStation Classic has been on store shelves for a few weeks now. Unlike Nintendo’s mini classic console offerings, they’ve stayed on store shelves. I walked in a Walmart last week that had at least two dozen. The $100 price tag has been slashed to $60. Stores are desperate to unload what turned out to be a very poor investment. And I have a $100, cute li’l PlayStation model that sits on my shelf.

Sony is learning a very hard lesson from the flop of the PlayStation Classic. But I’m worried they’re learning the wrong one.

Sony is a giant company, and they seem to have a hard time perceiving nuance. When a console loaded with PlayStation 1-era games fails to light the market on fire, there’s a very good chance their takeaway will be, “I guess people aren’t nostalgic for PlayStation games like they are NES and SNES.” Jim Ryan, as Sony’s head of global sales, said in 2017, “I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?” To reiterate, a high-up exec at Sony said this. About their own games. While this might be Jim Ryan’s perspective, it’s not the perspective of people who grew up with the PlayStation. It’s unequivocally false to say there’s no nostalgia for these games, or that because of their lower graphical output no one will want to play them.

No, it’s not that gamers aren’t interested in PlayStation games. It’s that, by and large, they’re not interested in those PlayStation games. True, the PlayStation Classic has a small handful of excellent no-brainer inclusions, like Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, and Resident Evil: Director’s Cut. What’s notable are the exclusions, and the games that were included instead. No Crash Bandicoot (the one-time mascot of the PlayStation). No Tomb Raider. No Spyro. Instead, we get Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, Syphon Filter, and Jumping Flash. No Silent Hill; instead, we have Cool Boarders 2. Forget about PaRappa the Rapper. Try Destruction Derby instead.

Each of those games I mentioned might be fine, but they aren’t the games that made the PlayStation memorable. And that’s the point I’m afraid Sony will miss. Throwing a bunch of cheap-to-license games on a chip and shipping it for $100 won’t win you any fans. Curating the games that made people fall in love with the PlayStation — even long-time Nintendo lovers like me — would see PlayStation Classics flying off shelves with no end in sight. Holding back games to avoid cannibalizing the lucrative remaster market (the reason I suspect Crash and Spyro are nowhere to be seen here) isn’t the right move, not for Sony and not for the companies that make these games. The worst-case scenario is that Sony takes this as a sign that they should leave their past behind them entirely, which would be a massive disservice to the video game industry.

There were good PlayStation 1 games, and there were not-so-good PlayStation 1 games. I guarantee, a PlayStation Classic system loaded with good games would be a huge seller. What Sony’s mistake illustrates is that consumers aren’t so stupid as to drop $100 on mediocrity.

Well, most consumers, anyway. Now if you’ll excuse me, my tiny PlayStation needs dusting.