Let’s Think Deep: The PSN Blackout

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On Wednesday April 20th, Sony Computer Entertainment’s online network was compromised by an outside intrusion. As a result, Play Station Network’s 29 million plus users have been disconnected from online access, with warnings of personal account information accessible to the perpetrators responsible. By April 24th, Sony placed the whole network on lockdown and has since been under extensive maintenance to provide only the most substantial security and prevent any and all future hackers from ever trying another stunt as this.

Oh well. I could use a vacation from getting pwned anyway.

To begin, I am not in any way interested in discussing why this happened, who’s really responsible, and start pointing fingers and placing blame. More so, I would like to look at the event for what it is and what it really means, for Sony, their users, and the gaming community in general.

To start with, this must be especially devastating to Sony, seeing as just a few months prior they were faced with the earthquake and tsunami that swept through Japan. The last thing any company wants to deal with after such a natural disaster is a man-made, criminal attack on them and their customers, but that’s just the predicament Sony is in right now. With that being said, this event will most definitely show just how committed Sony is to protecting their users:

“To date, there is no confirmed evidence any credit card or personal information has been misused, and we continue to monitor the situation closely. We are also moving ahead with plans to help protect our customers from identity theft around the world. A program for U.S. PlayStation Network and Qriocity customers that includes a $1 million identity theft insurance policy per user was launched earlier today and announcements for other regions will be coming soon.”
Sony Chairman Howard Stringer gives his regards. 5/5/11

Sony has been posting current Restoration Updates, which can be followed on the PlayStation.Blog. From the sound of things, it seems that the company is now in the process of “internal testing” for the new security system, which Sony seems to be adamant that its infrastructure is foolproof. I couldn’t tell you how long a process like that could possibly take, and a lot of it does sound like computer science/network administrations jargon. Anyway, it’s all beside the point. I get it. It’s taking more time than they thought.

For their patience, all PS3 owners will be offered a “Welcome Back” package once their services are up and running. This includes (among other undisclosed benefits) a free month long subscription to Play Station Plus, as well as extensions to members already with subscriptions to both PS Plus and Music Unlimited to make up for lost time. These are some wonderful accommodations, and once everything is fully restored, I’m sure Sony’s fans will be more than joyed.

Unfortunately, facts can’t be avoided, and the fact is that it’s been over two weeks now, and still, Sony has yet to give its users that one thing they really want: a date we can expect the network to be fixed. Even a legitimate estimate would be nice. I’ll admit, I myself am not much of an online gamer, and Sony’s library of great single player adventure games (Uncharted, InFamous, Sly, God of War, Ratchet and Clank, all reasons why I bought the system in the first place) have essentially been untouched by this whole situation, but even I frequently browse the Play Station Store for new demos and trailers. Another frequent thing I do is search Little Big Planet 2 for new user-made levels. That, Call of Duty and Marvel vs Capcom 3 I’d say are probably the PS3’s most active franchises, and their online community is their life force.

Keep in mind this outage also happened inconveniently upon the release of one of, if not THE most anticipated game of the year. A game which also promised a strong online co-op experience.

Just look at these guys. It's like they're about to implode from Anticipation Overload if they have to wait any longer.

Ugly truth is, most gamers aren’t really that patient, especially the online competitive type that are use to having these accommodations on a day to day basis. Some players may be reminded of the Leap Year Glitch from 2010 that temporarily brain-farted the systems (however, it was only for a day or so), and this will simply be another, more game breaking instance where Sony is falling short of the competition. Every day the network isn’t fixed, more and more PS3 owners will get fed up with waiting and turn in their consoles to exchange for 360’s.

But what makes me chuckle at this whole situation is that not seven years ago, this conflict would seem so foreign that it would almost be borderline unfathomable. Maybe this is just a generational issue, but the whole online shopping/ multiplayer trend of gaming still feels like a new development, and I’m not even sure it’s a good one (but that’s a topic for another day). Didn’t a video game console have to stand on its own merits and the merits of the games it encompassed? I mean either way, I’m still going to play and review InFamous 2 when that comes out in another month.

Regardless of how you intend to look at it, Sony is most certainly loosing money and status on this fiasco. A shame, seeing as the PS3 has been undoubtedly the underdog in this entire console generation, and just as they were starting to build up some much needed progress with a superb library of exclusives coming out the last couple years, this happens. It could be said that gamers’ impatience is in fact the reason why Sony is being so thorough with their internal testing; to make absolute sure this never happens to its users again. As I am writing this, it is Monday May 9th. If the Network is up by the time this article is published, excellent. But I’m not holding my breath.

Final words: If anyone from Sony Computer Entertainment is listening, from what I’ve read on your comment boards, what your gamers are really pining for is Cross-Game Voice chat. If you add that among other bonuses to your “Welcome Back” package, I’m sure a good chunk of your users will forgive this whole Blackout in a heartbeat.

Want to think about games some more? Try these:

Let’s Think Deep: The Download Conundrum

I Get Your Genre: First-Person Shooters

Let’s Think Deep: The Mind of a Fanboy

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  1. I don’t have a PS3 but I’m willing to bet most PS3 gamers are more worried about their online gaming and less about their info or credit cards being stolen. As you said, gamers aren’t patient – we must game!

    The fact this outage has gone on for so long tells me a lot and how serious it really is. I can only imagine how many millions of dollars has been lost for Sony in only a few weeks. Between new game releases and DLC sales alone is probably a ton.

    My hope is at least that other places are doing double and triple checks on their own networks. This was bound to happen to someone and I’m glad it wasn’t XBL.

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