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Playstation 3: Right now even Nintendo has more online services

Nice Logo, I think I'll take it

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.

This looks like it might be fun, but nobody really knows even after it's been out for over two weeks.

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.

VP of Humility was a joke for this commercial, but Sony needs some right now.


9 Responses

  1. I agree that not knowing, or at least not telling the public exactly what information was exposed is a little disturbing. When the iPad was first released and hackers gained access to lists of 1000s of e-mail addresses, many of them belonging to public figures, Apple knew immediately who was exposed. I’m sure this is technically different, but still.
    Another thing to consider here is the simple fact that Sony is a Japanese company. I’m no expert on Japanese culture, but I do know they value their image very highly. In other words, admitting there was a problem as soon as they became aware of it would have been embarrassing on a level we as Americans cannot understand. This was also noticeable in the Toyota recalls. Toyota execs were reluctant to admit there was a problem, and as a result I think they were punished with a greater deal of harshness than the situation warranted.
    I respect the Japanese businessman’s cultural view, but when he is operating in a global market he needs to understand that each culture will perceive his reaction differently.
    This raises what I find to be an interesting question. In America we obviously find a punctual open and honest response refreshing and I think American consumers are more forgiving of companies that take this approach. WordPress is a good example. There have been two security breeches in the last year and each time they have addressed the issue in their blog almost instantaneously. But should the response respected and expected by American consumers be the default in a global market?
    Given that it is a response based on a consumer-focused speed and honesty, I would have to say yes.

  2. Customer privacy and concerns vastly outweigh corporate image. Without the customers, there is no corporate image. I have not really followed the story too closely and just figured that PSN would be fixed by now when I tried to login last night. Nope. Oh well, back to Xbox Live–for good (no big loss).

  3. I started off being very angry about this. How could they let this happen? Why didn’t they tell us sooner? After I calmed down and thought about, I’ve been more understanding. Sony did mess up. Whether it was the fixed number or not encrypting our passwords, they could have been more honest about what was happening. But honestly, what would have been different? If they said there was an outside attack on the 21st, I wouldn’t have done anything different. It is really just an illusion of knowledge because we still don’t know that much. It could be much worse. Look at Epsilon or the 2007 tj maxx breach. I’m not saying sony did things right or even that we shouldn’t be mad at them, but the actual effect it has on us is mostly going to be checking your credit card statements regularly and watching out fire phishing

  4. Damn mobile websites, there’s gotta be an easier way to do this at work.

    Anyway, it sucks a little for us, but not as much as for the developers. They are gonna get some increased advertising, but this is gonna hurt them the most. There are a lot of ps3 exclusives coming out this year, but sony needs to show their future potential at e3. I don’t know if they are gonna be able to pull it off. If I were a dev, I wouldn’t want to support them.

    • I don’t have a PS3, so this didn’t really affect me one iota. But this is a growing trend in this industry I highly disapprove of. Granted, the only other time I experienced this was back when Elrood and I were waiting a solid month or two for the online co-op update of Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light to be added to the game so we could finally enjoy something that had been receiving already positive reviews. And that wasn’t anywhere near as major as Sony’s security breach.
      During this period we had NO information. Deadline after deadline sailed past with not a single word of information passing the official game website. Would having them officially tell us that they were having problems and that there were delays have changed the fact that we couldn’t play the game? Not so much. But receiving no information at all I find to be rather offensive.
      I mean, come on. We live in an age of information! What, someone couldn’t hop on twitter and pounded out six words to let us know they’re still working on the problem? What, Sony couldn’t have posted on their website that the network was down due to a security breach? Did they think people just wouldn’t notice if they didn’t say anything?
      To me this practice of hiding information that would have been easy to explain means someone there is thinking “ahh, who cares what the customers think? They’re so dumb they probably won’t notice.”
      Basically, a little honesty would go a long way in horrible situations. I’m hoping Sony treats those game developers way better than they treat their customers, for their sake more than anything.

  5. tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick MAY 10th and still no psn tick tock tick MAY 10th and still no psn tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick MAY 10th and still no psn tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick MAY 10th and still no psn tick tock tick tock tick tock.

    • tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick MAY 10th and still no psn tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock.

      • Yes and it looks like the end is still over the horizon. http://www.shacknews.com/article/68400/psn-restoration-34at-least-a?asid=3303ed33

  6. […] remember not that long ago when the Playstation network was down?  Not good times for Sony, and I wrote about it here.  Whether or not Sony has made it up to consumers (and developers) is another topic, but one […]

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