With news of Sony closing the PS3, PSP and PS Vita stores in July and August of this year, fans have held this up as the silver bullet to the heart of an all-digital future. While the PS4 Store and servers are safe, that is likely only for a few more years as Sony has proven that they will ruthlessly cull old servers and stores as and when they deem necessary.
The issue is more than simply being unable to buy games to play on the PS4 as it turns out. If your CMOS battery fails, as these batteries tend to do after about ten years, your PS4 is unable to authenticate the time and date with the Sony servers. “So what is the problem?”, you ask; well, that means that the PS4 will not allow you to play any games until it can authenticate. By any games we mean “ANY” including your precious and for now possibly valuable physical discs. Even taking the console offline does not help as Twitter poster @Forest_Reviews has proven via a little experiment he ran.
Like me, if you’ve used a very old PC you would think that simply replacing the battery would solve the problem. But as user @windycornertv states later in the thread, the problem starts with the battery dying, but the fact that the system requires server authentication is what “bricks” your console when those servers go offline.
These reports are backed up by the work of a well-known YouTuber, Lance McDonald, who detailed the cause of the issue in a series of tweets. The server authentication is required by the trophy system as the internal clock cannot be changed and this was done to prevent players from altering the clock to back date their trophies to earlier than they actually earned them. Simply put, breaking trophies, breaks the console.
Of course, the situation with the PS4 is not as dire as the older systems since Sony at least made the PS5 backwards compatible with the majority of PS4 games. It is still a concern for countries like South Africa where older consoles remain in service for years longer than they do in developed countries, due to the simple issue of the cost of newer systems.
And while this is a problem that is not of immediate concern, it is still a concern especially if you are one of the many people involved in the retro gaming side of the hobby. Unlike your NES, SNES or PS2 the integration of internet services and stores makes the PS4 a console with a very limited lifespan.