28 Days Later...
Twenty-eight days after the PlayStation Network went down Sony began restoring it piece by piece across the globe, leaving restored regions only missing the PlayStation Store.
What Happened, And How Does It Affect Me?
For anyone who hasn’t been following the situation: the PSN was hacked last month, compromising all 77 million members’ personal information.
The prolonged PSN downtime was a result of hackers, and consequently Sony announced that everyone's PSN screen name, real name, address, email, birth date, and password had been compromised. The user’s profile data and purchase history/billing address may also have been compromised. Whether credit card numbers had been stolen was never definitively stated, though Sony advised PSN members to take that non-confirmation under consideration.
So Why Didn’t I Know Sooner?
A site/system being hacked is nothing new, and most members did not fault Sony for getting hacked, it was the way they handled their PR that caused a problem.
As users, gamers, customers, and people whose personal information had just been stolen, Sony offered up very few details as to what was going on -- a situation made worse by the fact that certain games’ DRM require a constant connection to the PSN in order to be played even offline, not to mention that the very active Call of Duty online multiplayer community was left stranded with no idea how long it would take for the network to come back up. This angered many PSN members, echoing a sentiment of distrust throughout the hallowed series of tubes that supports forums, message boards, and article commenting. Days passed with little to no useful information, and then weeks, and when it came out that credit card numbers may have been at risk the community went nuts having not known sooner. Sony’s explanation was that they had only learned about it very recently before their announcement and wanted to confirm that it was an issue before worrying people.
The question became: if Sony lost its customers’ information and will not regard its customers with the up-to-the-minute details and respect they deserve, do they as a company deserve the customers’ trust?
And it’s a big issue. Without the community’s trust the PlayStation brand could crumble. Downloadable games and DLC sales would plummet, causing developers to focus their sights on other systems, and investors would pull out when enough of the PlayStation customer base does.
It’s a very tough situation for all parties involved, but after taking several weeks to assess the situation and hiring several security firms to scope out the damage Sony began bringing the PSN back online 28 days after it had been disabled, restoring full functionality bit by bit, region by region (except for the PlayStation Store).
Sony Owes Me For This
In an effort to win its customers’ loyalty back Sony has promised several free games for PS3 and PSP owners to download and keep as part of a 'Welcome Back' initiative/apology - and the selection's pretty good.
The package, available for 30 days after the PlayStation Store is restored (which could be any time up until the end of May), consists of two PS3 games that can be kept forever, out of a choice of Dead Nation, inFAMOUS, LittleBigPlanet, Super Stardust HD, or Wipeout HD + Fury.
PSP owners will be able to download two of the following on top of their two free PS3 games: LittleBigPlanet (PSP), ModNation Racers, Pursuit Force, or Killzone Liberation.
These games are of course all games that have already hit their peak and sold well, so giving them away will most likely not hurt Sony or the games’ developers as much as giving away other titles would.
While these choices are good ones, the concern amongst gamers is that due to the high popularity/quality of the selection, these are games they have already played or already own. Certainly adding a couple of more games to the list would have been doable? Or even offering a game for each genre in an effort to expand the range of choices?
Sony will also offer a selection of free movie rentals, a 30-day free PlayStation Plus membership for non-PlayStation Plus subscribers (and an additional 60 days free for existing PlayStation Plus subscribers), as well as an additional 30 days of free premium subscription for existing Music Unlimited Premium Trial subscription members (and an additional 30 days plus time lost for existing Premium/Basic members).
You should note, however, that while part of PlayStation Plus' draw is that you get free games, any free games downloaded under PlayStation Plus will expire when the subscription does, should you choose not to renew.
Lastly, PlayStation Home will be offering 100 free virtual items, with additional free content to be released soon.
Of course, with the store still down none of this information makes any difference, (and no one can get their L.A. Noire pre-order DLC) but at least you can begin looking into which games you would like to grab. Hopefully they will be available very soon, giving every member a choice of inFamous is a great way to lead up to the June 7 release of inFamous 2.
But Is My Credit Card Safe?
When the PSN came back online the system forced each and every user to create a new password before allowing them to do anything more. While a logical precaution after what had happened, many users are still worried about protecting their credit card - and there are options.
Your first option is to purchase PSN points cards and to redeem those points with the PlayStation Store instead of using a credit card directly.
The other option is Sony’s recently announced identity protection offer, with a free AllClear ID PLUS account for 12 months. The premium identity protection service claims to use advanced technology to deliver alerts and help protect you from identity theft. The service also provides identity theft insurance coverage and hands-on help from fraud investigators, should it become necessary. All PSN and Qriocity members are eligible for the offer, and will receive an email with information pertaining to how to join if they have not already.
Existing PlayStation Plus members will receive time added to their subscription equal to how long the network was down.
In the end it is up to you whether you still trust Sony. All signs point to the company taking every precaution they could to ensure this does not happen again, or if it somehow does that your information will not be at risk. They’ve prepared an offer of free highly rated titles, a free trial of PlayStation Plus and Music Unlimited, free PlayStation Home items, and a year of free insured identity protection. Those are plenty of ‘Welcome Back’ perks, especially from a service that was free to begin with.
But forgiveness is not trust, and while they can buy most of our forgiveness by showering us with swag it may still not be enough. Because it’s impossible to connect a PS3 or PSP online without a PSN account it comes down to three choices: 1) Only play your PS3/PSP offline and never update your trophies, patch games, purchase DLC or downloadable games/demos, or download a system update ever again; 2) Put in your information but only use a PSN points card instead of a credit card; or 3) Switch to Steam or the Xbox 360 for a comparable experience (and repurchase the games you want to keep and pay for a Xbox Live Gold subscription if you plan on playing games online) and give up on the PlayStation brand altogether – or at least for this generation. As a consumer you have options, you need only decide which one suits you best.