The PS3 Problem: How Sony Got Scooped By Its Own Users

You know things are bad when Sony tells Playstation 3 owners not to turn on their consoles for fear of data loss, but they're even worse when the warning comes 16 hours, and an entire night, after the company first acknowledged problems with the Playstation Network.

Yesterday, Sony announced that PS3 consoles, with the exception of the new PS3 Slim, were unable to connect with the Playstation Network because of a bug in the system's clock. What's worse is that simply turning on the consoles can cause "errors in some functionality, such as recording obtained trophies, and not being able to restore certain data." As such, Sony advised staying away from the PS3 -- unless you've got a Slim -- until they can fix the problem, hopefully within 24 hours.

As with any tech service outage, it's appropriate to look at whether the official response was adequate. In this case, Sony's clearly was not.

Information moves astoundingly fast in the gaming world. I first got wind of the problem at around 4 p.m. PST, reading a Twitter update from Game Informer's Philip Kollar. His PS3 Trophy information was gone, and he couldn't play any games. That was two hours before Sony itself acknowledged the problem and said it was looking into it.

Before long, Sony's customers blew the story open. Reports of internal clock issues were everywhere, mainly stemming from the popular gaming forum NeoGAF. By midnight, one user had posted a detailed FAQ on who was affected, what to do and what's at risk by turning on your console.

That's exactly what Sony should've done. Instead, the company sat on the issue until Monday morning, when spokesman Patrick Seybold posted a sterile message explaining the errors. The warning to PS3 Fat owners was buried in his blog post. That was the last we heard from Sony. Among the perfectly valid questions that were unanswered: How will a fix will be delivered to people who can't go online? What other data is at risk of being lost? Will people get their trophies back?

Kotaku's reporting that consoles are now coming back to life (but no word from Sony, mind you). Sony still has some explaining to do, and gamers deserve an apology not just for the outage itself, but for being kept in the dark.

Update: Sony's made it official that service is back, that a non-existent leap year was to blame, and that the problem resolved itself once system clocks hit March 1.

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