Sony's PSN and SOE servers back online. So what's next?

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This weekend Sony closed chapter 1 of the epic tale of the Great PSN Outage of 2011. Saturday night both the Playstation Network and Sony Online Entertainment's multiplayer games lurched back to life.

In the case of SOE it seems to have been smooth sailing; once the games were back online they seem to have been stable (caveat: my information is anecdotal and based on personal experience and watching social networks). PSN seems to be facing a greater challenge. First of all, parts are still offline (we were warned this would be the case). The Playstation Store, for instance, is still "undergoing maintenance."

But even the parts that are up seem a tad dodgy. After applying a System Update, all PSN users were asked to change their passwords. I changed mine via the web site, which required an email to be sent to the address associated with my account. When I did this, I was warned it could take up to 24 hours to get that email! It didn't take that long, but it did take five or six hours. I could then log into PSN on my PS3 without problems the first time. When I returned a few hours later, the login failed and I was prompted to change my password for a second time.

The service seemed to be restarting periodically, and Sony eventually put up a blog post saying they'd had to take the service offline for 30 minutes in order to clear the queue of people trying to change their passwords. My experience suggests it went down more than once, or at least I was logged out more than once. That's where things stand the last time I checked.

It's unfortunate, but perhaps not unexpected, that Sony would encounter some glitches bringing the service up for the first time after such an extensive (according to them) rebuild, but I can't imagine it's building confidence with users. After nearly a month of downtime gamers rush to their PS3s to finally start playing Mortal Kombat and are met with yet another final obstacle as they convince the PSN to let their passwords 'stick' and then get knocked offline for no apparent reason.

Anyway, that closes one chapter but now the story is going to get interesting, though harder to follow. What will the long term impact of this outage be? Last week Edge ran a story claiming that (in Europe anyway) gamers were starting to trade in their PS3s for Xbox 360s in response to the extended down time. (Presumably if they were trading systems in because of the loss of personal data, we would've seen that bump earlier.) It isn't exactly a scientific survey but it's certainly understandable that gamers who want multiplayer would've been running out of patience.

But now that PSN is back up, is it all good? Will gamers forgive and move on? I have to admit that I will. I just have too much invested in the platform, between console, games, downloaded content, extra controllers and peripherals...I'm just not ready to get rid of all that gear just now.

SOE is a separate question. They depend, at least in part, on monthly subscriptions to keep solvent, and they've now given all users a free 50 days or so (1 month plus a day for each day the service was offline; SOE wasn't down quite as long as PSN was). What long-term impact will having no subscription income for two months have on associated games?

So what's next in this saga? Well, we still don't know when the Store will come back online. We still don't know the specifics of what free content Sony will offer us as a make-good for the down time. We don't know when the service will stabilize. But what I'm really, really curious about is how Jack Tretton will handle the hack and outage at the Sony E3 2011 Press Conference. It's going to be too fresh in people's minds to ignore it, after all.

In the meantime, here's a video Kaz Hirai has posted on the Playstation Blog, apologizing once again for the outage and offering some general information about what went on over the weekend and what's to come:

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