Sony’s PSN outage shows how bad online-only games can be

Always-on sometimes means off...

The PlayStation Network (PSN) logo with a cloud symbol and stop sign over it.

If you were hoping to kick back with your favourite PS5 game last night, then chances are you were left disappointed. Global outages brought the PlayStation Network (PSN) down during the US evening. Sony got a handle on things within a few hours, but it raises one big question about online-only titles. Why exactly are games that should work just fine completely unplayable without the internet?

Losing access to online multiplayer games like Destiny 2 or Fortnite makes sense. These require broadband to connect with other players, and if nobody can connect, then you have no game. Sadly, games that you can play single-player, like Honkai: Star Rail, Diablo 4, and Godfall, also lost access in the outage. This is thanks to always-on DRM.

DRM (digital rights management) tools are quite contentious. On one hand, publishers feel they help minimise piracy and cheating. On the other, gamers feel they can hinder performance and, in this case, stop you playing altogether. Always-on DRM does what it says on the tin, forcing games to connect to the internet to work.

The reason behind always-on DRM for otherwise solo experiences isn’t as far-fetched as you’d imagine. Honkai, Diablo, and Godfall are all dependent on loot systems, and the tool keeps the item economy intact. That doesn’t remove the sting of not being able to play what you want during a blackout or traveling, though. There has to be a better way, such as restricting offline characters to offline play only. I’d make Diablo 4 my go-to Steam Deck game if it meant I could continue my run on the train.

Not every game has an understandable reason, either. Rainbow Six Siege suffers from always-on DRM with its Training Grounds mode, which you should be able to play offline. Unfortunately, it’s a bundle package and if Ubisoft, PlayStation, or Xbox servers come crashing down, so does every game mode.

I probably sound old, reminiscing of the days where you could play until the disc is unreadable. Still, there’s nothing more frustrating than finishing school or work to find out you can’t play something you’ve looked forward to all day. Rather than sitting there, checking in hopes of it coming back online, I recommend quickly choosing something else instead. Your time is valuable, so spend it creating more memories!