Nov 18, 2013 · 3 minutes

Gaming is an expensive hobby. The consoles themselves cost hundreds of dollars; the services that allow us to play with other gamers around the world require a monthly fee; the games themselves cost around $60 each. It's no wonder that gaming is a $66 billion industry -- or that gamers would be frustrated when all of the games they've purchased over the last seven years are obviated by the release of a new console.

That's the way games have always worked, excepting a brief respite when Sony allowed its PlayStation 2 console to play games made for the original PlayStation. Yet that hasn't stopped some from expressing their displeasure with the company for damning their PlayStation 3 games to obsolescence with the PlayStation 4, which doesn't support them. The company plans to make many of these games available through a streaming service meant to debut in 2014, but many details of the service -- including the discount gamers would receive for games they'd already purchased -- remain unknown.

This will surely frustrate gamers in the short term. The PS4 doesn't yet offer many compelling games, and the idea of having to re-pay for games they've already purchased will probably leave a sour taste in many mouths. But that might simply be the bitter taste of a change that will ultimately make games more like music, films, books, and essentially every other form of entertainment changed by the Internet.

The first step of this change, as shown by iTunes and the Kindle Store, is to make many of the things consumers might otherwise have purchased in retail stores available through digital marketplaces. The pain of having to pay for access to something already purchased in another format isn't unique to those who find their jollies in buttons and joysticks; it's something that consumers have had to deal with as they purchase digital versions of albums, movies, or books that they already own in another format.

The second step of this change is to move consumers away from individual purchases and towards all-you-can-consume monthly services. Examples of this step abound: Spotify allows us to listen to as much music as we'd like; Hulu allows us to watch many television shows; Netflix allows us to watch many movies and original series; and Oyster allows us to read many popular books, all for a nominal monthly fee. Even if the PlayStation game-streaming service doesn't resemble these subscription offerings at launch, it would be surprising if games never go the way of essentially every other form of entertainment.

Having to replace hundreds of dollars worth of games, in addition to the desire to purchase new games and pay for the services that enable the global gaming revolution, is a daunting prospect. The PS2 and early versions of the PS3 conditioned gamers to expect the so-called "backwards compatibility" that allowed them to play the games they've already purchased even as they embrace new consoles, and Sony seems to finally have turned its back on the concept. And unlike Nintendo, which relies on the nostalgia of its older games by making them available on its new consoles, Sony doesn't yet have the cachet of its troubled counterpart.

But this frustration is normal. Those who filled their entertainment centers with VHS tapes, their cars with CDs, and their bookshelves with paperbacks have already had to accept the fact that they'll need to pay again if they wish to experience the convenience of digital entertainment. They probably experienced it again when they decided that they would rather sign up for something like Spotify or Netflix or Oyster instead of purchasing their entertainment piece by piece. It just so happens that the PS4's obviation of PS3 game-discs is more abrupt than those other mediums.

[Image courtesy RebeccaPollard]