I own both an Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. I have no preference in the eternal console fanboy war. In fact I always kind of considered them equal, maybe even the PS3 coming out ahead because of its ability to play blurays and its FREE online services. Xbox live is definitely the slicker system as far as presentation, but not having to pay Sony kind of made up for the lack of bells and whistles on the PSN. However, as most of you reading this probably know by now, the Playstation network was hacked into and taken down as a result on April 20th. This is posting on May 4th and the PSN is STILL dead to the world. Not being able to play any games online (including the MMO ONLINE ONLY DC Universe) would be bad enough, but the question remains of whether or not the hacker(s?) obtained user credit card information. While Sony is a victim of a crime in this situation, the surprising lack of timely information and concrete answers is of great concern to me both as a gaming enthusiast and a consumer. To me it says that while Sony wants to be at the technological forefront in terms of horsepower, how people use and interact with the technology seems to be lost on them.
I play my Xbox more than my PS3 for a simple reason; all of my friends are on Xbox Live and I have zero people on my PSN friends list. Of course many gamers only have a PS3 and robust PSN friends lists, so to just be cut off for a couple of weeks has to be lame. It’s not just playing with friends online though, the PlayStation store is out of commission as well. No downloading games, add ons, or demos. As I said earlier, Sony is a victim here. They didn’t want their network to be so penetrated that they literally had to take it down until the infrastructure could be rebuilt. Whomever did it, be it some sort of retaliation because of Sony bringing the lawsuit against George Hotz (the man who hacked the PS3) or just some random jerkface out to steal information, should be caught and prosecuted. The problem I have with Sony is the vague way in which they responded. Reading through the Playstation Blog reveals that Sony didn’t even acknowledge that the network being down was due to an outage until two days after it was offline. Not only do I find it very hard to believe that it took a full 48 hours for Sony to realize that the problem wasn’t some sort of error but a malicious attack, Sony outs itself about what it knew! In a April 22nd post about the issue, Sony says:
“An external intrusion on our system has affected our PlayStation Network and Qriocity services. In order to conduct a thorough investigation and to verify the smooth and secure operation of our network services going forward, we turned off PlayStation Network & Qriocity services on the evening of Wednesday, April 20th.”
The key here is that Sony themselves were the ones to turn off the network as a security measure because they realized it had been compromised. So why hide the real reason for two days? I don’t know the details of whether or not they turned it off because of the risk of damage being done to the network or they knew that personal information about Playstation network members had been compromised. But either way, they should have been more transparent in their actions. First it would have garnered more good will for Sony because “oh hey, we’ve been hacked! We had to turn off the system to figure out what’s going on, we’re as mad about as this as you guys” is much better than “The network is down for some reason, we’ll get back to you”. Second, if Sony realized that any sort of personal information had been compromised, it’s their obligation to those of us who trusted said information to Sony that they tell us it might now be out in the world. Sony isn’t even sure whether or not credit car information was taken, which seems crazy to me. I have no technical know how on such matters, but not being able to tell whether the most important part of your customer’s information was breached or not is a failure.
The people I feel the worst for aren’t the PSN consumers though. The PlayStation network may be free for me and you, but the developers of video games don’t view it that way. Think of it this way: Socom 4, ironically developed in-house by Sony, was released on the 19th of April. The primary draw for many players on this PS3 exclusive game was the online multiplayer. Those who bought the game had one day to enjoy the online portion and have not been able to play since. How many potential sales were lost because players said forget it if I can’t play online I won’t buy now, then moved on to something else? Even worse in my mind, how many people had no idea about the PSN being messed up and bought the game anyway, only to be highly confused as to why they couldn’t play online. Sony did send an email, which I received, explaining the situation….on April 27th. A full week later! At least Socom 4 was made by Sony who has a ton of money. Smaller developers who release PSN or Xbox live games don’t have the luxury of letting their game sit on a shelf. Probably any game that was supposed to come out in this window lost out on the majority of sales it would have received.
Sony is trying to make amends. Once the network comes back up, which SHOULD be this week according to Sony, all users will get a free month of Playstation plus, Sony’s paid online service that grants access to free games. They’ve promised more in their “Welcome Back” package. The PSN will be back soon, people will play their games, but I don’t think this one just gets forgotten. I think many gamers, myself included, will be thinking twice about putting their information into the PSN again. I think Xbox live will increase security and be more vigilant after seeing what a PR and monetary disaster this was for Sony. I think this will serve as a wake up call for any online platform to beef up security. When mainstream news sites are talking about the Playstation network being down, that is a serious PR hit. I hope Sony learns from this and has a better flow of information to their consumers and developers in the future.
Filed under: Commentary, Games Tagged: | credit card info, DC Universe Online, George Hotz, kevin butler, MMO, Playstation, Playstation Network, Playstation network outage, Playstation Plus, Portal 2, PSN, Socom 4, SOE, Welcome Back Program, xbox live