On the Perils of Buying Games Digitally (And How Fun Rogue Legacy Is)

I have a very old Playstation 3.  It’s odd to think of the machine as being old, but considering that I received it in 2008 and we’re approaching 2016 in a few months, I suppose that descriptor applies for the life cycle of a console.  In addition to being old, my PS3 happens to be one of those not-so-rare-but-still-beautiful-gems, the limited edition game bundle exclusive.  My game of choice was Metal Gear Solid 4, which was the game I wanted to get a PS3 for way back in the day (for anyone who might not remember, Sony’s third console had a really rough first couple years on the market because they abandoned backwards compatibility as a feature and had a really terrible game library at launch because developers had to deal with a steep learning curve on Sony’s dev kits).  Because it’s a special edition, it features a sleek gunmetal gray finish (versus the traditional glossy black of the original fat PS3s) and the game’s logo stamped on the side of the case, which offers a nice aesthetic.  Trading off for the nice look (and of course the game that was bundled with the console), my PS3 is sorely lacking in technical features.  It has no extra memory card slots, only two USB ports, and the onboard hard drive is a paltry 40 GB.

I say all this because the technical limitations of my game console (particularly the hard drive) leads to a certain kind of discipline when it comes to buying games digitally.  Every time I decide I want to buy a game, I typically have to delete a bunch of other game files that are taking up space on the hard drive.  I accepted a long time ago that it’s just a fact of the generation PS3 I own, and it’s not really a problem that has kept me from enjoying the system.

Until now.

One thing about Sony’s digital distribution model is that there is no compression of game files when you download them.  If the game says it takes 25 GB of hard drive space, then 25 GB is exactly how big the file you’re downloading will be.  This is a fair thing, and since most games that I’m interested in don’t get that monstrously big (which, yes, I know it isn’t really that big, but remember I have a 40 GB hard drive), it’s not a big deal.  I delete some stuff, download the file, and move on with my life.

I could not do that on my most recent purchase though.

See, over the weekend Sony was having a sale ( like they always do), and I saw that the game Beyond: Two Souls was only eight dollars, so I decided that I would buy it with the last of my store credit that I got for my birthday last year.  I also picked up a couple of other, much smaller, indie titles at the same time, and Sony gave me the standard spiel that what was in my cart was too big for download, and did I want to continue with my purchase.  Having gone through this issue before, I said yes, because I figured it was just saying that because I was due to clean out my hard drive.  I got right to work picking through game files and clearing stuff out until I had about 30 GB of free space left, and went to download Beyond: Two Souls, which is a 25 GB file.

My PS3 told me, repeatedly, that the file was too big to download, even though I obviously had enough free space on my hard drive to house the game.

Now here’s the irritating bit.  I did some digging (read: I hit the Googles) and found in Sony’s online FAQ an explanation for this error: in order to download a file, the hard drive has to have double the listed memory available (you need space to download the whole file, and then you need the same amount of space to install the file before deleting the download).  This makes sense, and I really don’t have a problem with the way the system is set up.  What I do have a problem with is the fact that Sony doesn’t explicitly warn you about the precise hard drive requirements needed to download games before you buy them through the online store.  My 40 GB hard drive simply isn’t big enough to download the game that I bought, and Sony didn’t tell me that.  They gave me the same warning message I’ve gotten in the past which talks about currently not having enough space on the hard drive, and which I’ve learned to ignore because I’ve never bought a game that was such a large download before.

Essentially, Sony’s only warning about the double capacity policy is listed in their online FAQ, which isn’t easily accessed from the console store, with no explicit warning saying that twice the size of a file must be available for download.

So now I have bought a game which I can’t play on my console as it stands.  I’m still interested in playing the game, so I don’t want to pester Sony’s customer service about getting a refund (I have done that before, so I am aware that you can get a refund for a mistaken game purchase even though their official policy says they don’t do that), but it does mean that I’m now exploring options for upgrading my seven year old console (which I’d like to retire for a PS4 sometime in the next year) with a larger hard drive.

Besides all of those woes though, I did also purchase Rogue Legacy which is a rogue-like adventure platformer that has a great sense of humor and a really fun generational mechanic.  I might have played it for eight hours straight after I got it installed.  It was almost a worthy consolation for the trouble with the other game.

Almost.

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