Sony Offers Limp Apology to Livid PS3 Gamers
Millions of PlayStation 3 owners are fuming over a bug that prevented them from using their systems on Sunday. For many, the glitch meant not only the loss of game time, but also time wasted trying to figure out how to solve the problem. Some gave up account data in the process. Sony has said a glitch in the internal clock was at fault, and that it's sorry -- but it still hasn't solved the problem.
Sony says a glitch that caused a global gaming lockdown for PlayStation 3 owners is due to a bug in the clock functionality of older PS3s.
The lockdown affects owners of older PS3s as well as those who try to play newer games, which use trophies, such as "Heavy Rain" and "Final Fantasy XIII." It also prevents users from connecting to Sony's PlayStation Network.
At press time, Sony was still working on the problem.
About the Glitch
On Sunday, owners of older PS3s found they couldn't play certain games either online or offline. The games, which include Heavy Rain and Final Fantasy XIII, either use trophies, or perform trophy-sync checks online. Older PS3 games were not affected.
The glitch struck once users powered on their PS3s whether or not the devices were connected to the Internet. When older PS3s were powered on, the glitch reset the devices' system clocks.
PS3 slims, which are the 120 GB and 250 GB models that were first launched in August of 2009, were not affected by the glitch.
"We believe we have identified that this problem is being caused by a bug in the clock functionality incorporated in the system," Patrick Seybold, a Sony spokesperson, said on the PS3 blog. "We hope to resolve this problem within the next 24 hours."
In the meantime, Seybold said owners of older models should refrain from using them because to avoid errors and loss of data.
Specifics of the Problem
The glitch causes several errors. One is re-setting the date of the PS3 system to Dec. 31, 1999. Another is responding to attempts to sign onto the PlayStation Network with error message 8001050F, which says a user has been signed out of the network.
A user who tries to reset the date and time of the PS3 over the Internet gets an error message saying the current date and time cannot be obtained.
Trying to launch a game evokes a message saying the system failed to install trophies and asking the user to exit the game, Seybold said. The user may also lose trophy data.
In addition, users can't play rental videos downloaded from the PlayStation Store before their expiration date, Seybold said, thus confirming reports that users had problems viewing videos from Netflix on their PS3s.
"This appears to be a system software problem that may extend back to the beginning of the line," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. " "They are likely using different firmware and a different software image for the newer machines because they use different core hardware than the early PS3s did."
Is Saying Sorry Enough?
Sony says it's sorry about the glitch. "We are doing our best to resolve the issue and do apologize for any inconvenience caused," Seybold said on the PS3 blog.
Will that be enough for users who may have lost game trophies, or downloaded videos on their PS3s that they can't watch before the rental date expires? Shouldn't Sony compensate gamers in some way? If it should, how much should it offer?
The question of compensation is one that has to be thrashed out between Sony and the players, Jesse Schell, assistant professor of entertainment technology at Carnegie Mellon University, told TechNewsWorld.
"It's up to Sony to decide what to do," he said, "but,given where the PS3 is in the marketplace right now, the last thing they'd need is bad publicity."
The PlayStation 3 came in a weak fourth in sales in January according to the NPD Group's statistics for the U.S. video games industry. It sold only about 277,000 units. The market leader was Nintendo's Wii, with about 466,000 units; then came the Nintendo DS, with just over 422,000 units. The Xbox 360, with about 333,000 units, came third.
That said, the PS3 did gain ground in January. "The only two platforms experiencing unit sales increases were the Xbox 360 and the PS3," NPD director David Riley pointed out. The PS3 showed a 36 percent increase year over year, while the Xbox 360 only had an 8 percent increase year over year.
The PS3 glitch won't impact sales, Riley told TechNewsWorld. "Will this have a negative impact on sales? Highly doubtful," he said. "Gamers are a resilient bunch."
In fact, the glitch might boost sales of newer PS3s.
"You might actually see some folks with older PS3s now buying new ones -- so, short term, this glitch might have a positive effect," Enderle said. "The fourth quarter is the big selling time for consoles, so as long as this issue is resolved by then, I expect any impact will be relatively minimal."
Resolving the problem could be relatively easy, Riley contends. "From what I understand, this isn't a fatal hardware issue, but a glitch that can be corrected with a firmware update," he pointed out. "I'm sure one will be available soon, if one isn't out already."