Jun 032011

Finally you can redeem your consolation prizes for being a victim of Sony’s security gaffes.  You get 2 games out of a list of 5, our details on that are still here.  Also, you get 30 days of Playstation Plus.  What does that do for you?  It allows you to enable automatic downloads of patches to games and firmware, gets you discounts on certain titles on the PS Store, access to some demos and trials not available to regular users, and even entitles you to some free games that you only keep as long as you’re a Plus member.  The free 30 days has no strings attached, doesn’t auto-renew and won’t automagically bill you next month.  Current Playstation Plus benefits are here.

Lastly, this weekend, PSN has some complimentary movie titles available for rent.  They don’t list out what movies are available, but it is safe to expect stuff from Sony pictures.  All they tell us is “A selection of “On Us” movie rentals are currently available to PlayStation Network customers this weekend only, where Video Service is available.”  So if you’re in the mood for a movie this weekend, log in and see what’s on the house.

Jun 022011

The PlayStation Store finally came back online late last night / early this morning.  Predictably, the service is getting hammered right now, so expect it to be slow and/or get random timeouts and obscure error messages as everyone scrambles to download stuff.  If you’re looking for the free stuff, it’s not up there quite yet, although they expect to post it up real “soon.”  For a reminder of the free games available to North American customers, check out our recap here with links to reviews and more info about each.

So now that the store is back up, what’s new to download?  Basically a ton of stuff, as Sony tries to catch up on the backlog of items publishers haven’t been able to sell for the past month and a half.  The list is way too long to detail here, so check out the full post on the PS blog.

A few suggestions would be:

  • Back to the Future episode 3 (now almost 2 episodes behind the PC/Mac version).
  • Redeem your L.A. Noire PS3 exclusive case and check out the Rockstar Pass for future DLC.
  • I will be definitely downloading the inFamous 2 demo, since I was a fan of the first one.
  • Any other code pack-ins from games you recently bought but haven’t been able to redeem.

I’d say skip the Red Faction Armageddon demo if you were a fan of Guerrilla.  After trying the demo on the 360,  it seems they took out everything that was fun about the last game and left us with a linear corridor shooter for Armageddon. Boo!

Expect a couple of store updates a week until Sony completely catches up on their backlog.  While quick updates are necessary to get everything back on track, it has to hurt the developers who now have their new releases buried in a pile of other content coming out at the same time.  Hopefully Sony will have appropriate compensation for those who make a living on the PS Store.

May 262011

Sony took a break from being hacked on various fronts to announce that you can start to sign up for your year free identity protection/credit monitoring service.  I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t do this, so you might as well head over to this page here, and put in your PSN email address.  After doing so, they claim you’ll receive an activation code and instructions within 72 hours.    Do it.  It’s a great opportunity to check out your credit even if you’re not worried about Sony’s lack of security.  You’ll need to take action before the end of June, so don’t put it off.

May 242011

Sony alerted users on their blog that PSN will be partially down for maintenance for the bulk of the day.  They claim the impact will be minimal and chances are you won’t notice it.  They also took the time to mention that the PS Store won’t be coming back online today, but reiterate they are still on target for “the end of this month.”  While I’m sure there are a lot of people who will boycott the store in light of Sony’s lack of focus on security, the store also is the gatekeeper for code pack-ins in new games and also for downloading content users have already bought.

Of course, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing since PSN was partially restored.   A loophole was found (and subsequently fixed) that allowed unauthorized password resetting, a Thai Sony site was infected and taken over by a phishing scam, a SQL injection attack compromised a Greek Sony music site, exposing more customer data all while the CEO called the whole thing a “hiccup in the road to a network future.”  We’re still trying to figure out what that means, but do appreciate his dismissive attitude towards his company’s continued failures which have left their customers exposed.

UPDATE:  Another Sony music site, this one in Japan has fell victim to yet another SQL injection attack.  Yes, Sony is on quite the roll these days.  Also, I was remiss not to mention that PSN is still down in Japan, as they need to answer more questions and meet more guidelines before the Japanese government will allow them to go back online in their home country.  Is it clear that Sony simply can’t be trusted with your data or do they just have a huge target on them right now?  While it’s obvious they’re a popular target as of late, that doesn’t excuse them from constantly failing.  SQL injection attacks aren’t anything new.

UPDATE #2: Yes, this keeps getting more ridiculous.  Another site, this time the Sony Ericsson Canadian site has been compromised, just like the others, with more customer data stolen.    You just can’t make this stuff up.  Should Sony just uninstall the internet?

May 192011

GiantBomb and other outlets are reporting that the PlayStation Store will be up next week. This comes from a memo sent to PSN devs letting them know when they can start to sell their products again. Expect two store updates a week for the next two weeks so that Sony can catch up on all the releases that were missed due to the outage. Of course, this is also great news for those trying to redeem codes for extra content packed in to recently released games like L.A. Noire and gamers who have been waiting to catch up on Telltale’s Back to the Future adventure game episodes.

Hopefully this will mark the end of the Sony / PSN drama and things can go back to working normally.

May 172011

More details keep trickling out about Sony’s compensation plans for the PSN outage. While the store is not up yet, when it does come back up, they have some free games waiting for you. The plan is that each user will get to choose two PS3 games from a list of five and you can also choose two PSP games from a list of four. The game titles are, of course, Sony published games, and if you had expectations of free third party games you would have been completely mistaken. Here’s your options in North America:

PS3 Games:

PSP Games:

A fairly decent list, although one could argue that most of those games are older and there are no AAA recent titles on that list.  I’ve only played inFAMOUS on the PS3 list and felt it was a very enjoyable open-world game, so if you’ve held out for that one, it’s easy to recommend for the low price of free.  Also coming is some free rental movies over a one weekend and some PlayStation Home free virtual items.

To recap, Sony will be offering one year of credit monitoring, two free PS3 games (and two PSP games if you actually have a PSP), some free movie rentals for one weekend (too bad if you’re out of town), 30 days of PlayStation Plus, and the promise of better security.  Of course, we have no well of telling how much more secure PSN is, although it’s been noted that Japan is not allowing PSN to go back online there because “Sony was incomplete in exercising measures that they said they will do on the May 1 press conference.”    You can read more into how the Japanese government is treating the situation with Sony, here.  That definitely makes me take pause a bit.

Has Sony done enough to win your confidence back?  There is no doubt their brand has taken a beating, and it will take time to win back customer trust.  The biggest issue is what recourse does the average gamer have against Sony if you didn’t feel you were compensated enough?  Not much, aside from not purchasing any new Sony products going forward.  Only time will tell on how badly the Sony/PS3 brand has been tarnished.

May 162011

Starting late Saturday / early Sunday, as you probably already know, Sony starting bringing PSN back online, region by region.  This calculated restoration wasn’t completely smooth, as there was some added downtime due to their system being flooded by change password requests.  Things seem to be back on track now, although the PlayStation Store is still not available.  No exact timeline has been posted for the return of the store, although they seem to indicate before the end of the month.  Of course, without the store, planned PSN game releases are still being delayed and extra content and demos cannot be downloaded. Right now, friend lists, online play and video services like Netflix, MLB, Hulu are all functional again, so at least online dependent games like Brink are actually playable on PS3.

In the latest update from Sony, things that we’re still waiting for details on are what freebies (games or videos) will be offered to users in the “Welcome Back” package and when/how you can sign up for your 1 year of credit monitoring.

If you don’t feel warm and fuzzy enough about Sony and PSN, you can watch this heart-felt message from Sony’s Kazuo Hirai:

The common feeling that many people have now is that PSN has to be the most secure online entertainment network now.  Taking almost one month to rebuild and fortify their security has to mean something, doesn’t it?

May 062011

In a trifecta of updates on the PlayStation Blog, Sony gives us new information on where they are at and what they are doing for their customers.  The first update, Patrick Seybold tells us they have been working around the clock to restore service and the new and improved PSN is in the final stages, being internally tested.  Still, no time line is given, so it’s anyone’s guess at this point.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see it back up until next week.

In the second update, Seybold describes the free year of credit monitoring Sony will offer to their US customers.  They claim to be working out the details for customers in other regions.  Basically, in the near future all PSN users will receive an email giving them details on how to sign up for their complimentary credit monitoring, which includes $1 million insurance policy for identity theft.  This was one of the important things I felt Sony should have offered, and they’ve followed that through, so I’m starting to warm back up to them ever-so-slightly.

In the third and last update from last night, we hear from Sir Howard Stringer, CEO of Sony.  He tries to answer the main question everyone is asking which is why it took so long to let their customers know:

As soon as we discovered the potential scope of the intrusion, we shut down the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services and hired some of the best technical experts in the field to determine what happened. I wish we could have gotten the answers we needed sooner, but forensic analysis is a complex, time-consuming process. Hackers, after all, do their best to cover their tracks, and it took some time for our experts to find those tracks and begin to identify what personal information had — or had not — been taken.

Fair enough, although it would have been nice to see them be proactive, like LastPass has done.  He does not acknowledge the information that indicates Sony was an easy target due to unpatched software and poorly designed network security.  I would have liked a little mea culpa there and less of playing an innocent victim, but maybe I’m just bitter.

Still unknown is what free content Sony will make available when everything is back up and running.  Also, still no mention of being able to erase your personal data from Sony’s databases if you so choose.  Right now, I feel that Sony is about halfway there in doing everything they should do to start to win back customer confidence.  Since everything is still a work in progress, I will reserve final judgement until then.

May 012011

A quick follow-up on Funkmaster’s post from Thursday: On 4/30, Sony released more details about restoring PSN and attempting to woo back customers.

Not everything is set in stone, but it’s worth looking at the press release/blog post. Sony is promising a “Welcome Back” program that includes the following features:

  • Each territory will be offering selected PlayStation entertainment content for free download. Specific details of this content will be announced in each region soon.
  • All existing PlayStation Network customers will be provided with 30 days free membership in the PlayStation Plus premium service. Current members of PlayStation Plus will receive 30 days free service.
  • Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity subscribers (in countries where the service is available) will receive 30 days free service.

The company also promises “additional “Welcome Back” entertainment and service offerings” to be rolled out in the coming weeks.

Is that enough for you – a free month of PlayStation Plus and a free PSN game? It’s hard to get excited about the free content that’s promised, because Microsoft set a precedent of mediocrity in this regard several years ago; I’m not holding my breath about the quality of this newest round of freebies. I’m also pretty uninterested in a free month of PlayStation Plus, since Sony never sold me (or many people) on the value of this service in the first place. I appreciate the general direction implied by the name “Welcome Back”, and these moves are nice gestures, but they don’t feel that relevant to me personally.

On the other hand, I’m paying attention to Sony’s actions related to long-term change within the organization. The company is revamping PSN’s security architecture (duh), and they’re creating a new senior-level position dedicated to data security and customer privacy. Sony also continues to engage outside security consultants – which I think is essential, given the apparently massive blind spot within the company that allowed this situation to unfold as it did. And when PSN services begin to be restored this week, Sony will force all users to reset their password via basic two-factor authentication: not just logging into their old account, but also performing the password change operation either on their original PS3 hardware (where the PSN account was first created) or via the personal email address associated with the PSN account. These actions fall short of the forward-looking changes that Funkmaster advocated last week…but they might be a decent start.

Has Sony learned its lesson – or have you?

Apr 282011

Assuming you’ve jumped off the Sony bandwagon given everything that’s happened and how it was handled, what would it take to get you back on board?  Sony says it will evaluate compensation options after they get PSN back online, so now is a great time to give them some suggestions.  When Xbox Live went down for a couple days around the holiday season 2 years ago, Microsoft gave everyone a forgettable XBLA game.  Of course, the PSN downtime and the fallout from that is much more catastrophic.

In discussing the issue with various friends, family and colleagues, the question came up, what would it take to turn this negative into a positive?  Obviously, the answer would be different for everyone, with some people actually defending Sony to the bitter end.  I’d call those people foolish, but to each their own.  Anyway, let’s take a look at some ideas Sony could use to “win back” and even earn some loyal customers.

From what I understand, some US states actually require companies to pay for a year (or even two?) of credit monitoring when personal data is stolen.  So an easy one would be to provide this service for all of their customers.  This should be a no brainer.  ArsTechnica has already posted some reports of credit card fraud that could be linked to the Sony breach, but in actuality, there is no way to verify those claims.  Whether it’s true or not, expect to see more stories like that for months and years to come.  At least Sony offering monitoring services will help quell customer complaints and provide an nice PR image boost for them, as a gesture of showing they care.  That last bit is important, since the general perception, valid or not, is that Sony does not care, as implied by their poor communication and perceived tone taken in their updates.

Other options that people will look for is some sort of financial compensation and/or free content.  Giving users free PSN games, or even going as far as giving everyone a free year of Playstation Plus should be fairly easy for Sony to do, would quiet most of their customer base and allow many to quickly forget this whole unpleasant experience.  Current Playstation Plus or Qriocity subscribers should most definitely get some sort of partial refund, no question.

While the options I’ve listed so far are nice, when you boil them down, they are just PR stunts to help boost a tarnished image.  The one area I feel that Sony could really make a difference and go a long way into (re)building a loyal fan-base is to take this experience and use it to become a champion for customer privacy and security.  They would do their customers a great service by taking the lead in providing customers greater control over their own data.  Let customers delete and permanently purge their accounts from Sony’s system, if they choose to do so.  Let customers permanently delete their stored credit card data from PSN.  Lead the industry in system security and privacy by having users opt-in to data gathering services that are currently in place.  Ditch the arcane and purposely confusing EULAs and provide clear language agreements.  By becoming a dominate player in consumer rights, they can start to build a reputation of a company people can trust, and gain customers who will fiercely loyal.

While I’m on my soap box, since they are rebuilding PSN from the ground up, fix the painfully slow PS3 update process that is way too frequent and often provides no new features.  Don’t forget that the past few months we saw numerous firmware updates all to bolster the security of the PS3 & PSN in their seemingly pointless war with hackers.  In the end, it was their customers who got caught in the crossfire, not to mention the inconvenience of loading 30 minute updates on their consoles before they can even start to use it.

Is this all pie-in-the-sky over optimism?  Probably.  But that’s how I’d answer the question.  Sony would win me back and keep me as a customer if they proved they were serious about security and privacy, let users control their own data, and throw a few freebies our way for good measure.  What other ideas do you have that Sony could do to make things right?