Since April the 20th, last week, the Playstation Network has been out-of-action. What appeared at first to be routine maintenance or a low-level bug soon to be fixed has now erupted into a four day-long issue, with Sony at a loss to explain how it happened or when it'll all be over. At first, it seemed like the work of hacker cabal, Anonymous, who'd been threatening to attack Sony since the latter's law-suit with George 'Geohot' Hotz reached a not-so-amicable end.
And while Sony works night and day to repair the situation, Microsoft has rolled out a free weekend of Xbox Live. For the bank holiday, of course, but the timing couldn't have been better. The crash is a serious blow to Sony's efforts to usurp Microsoft from the online stage, who'd argue their service is paid-for to avoid situations just like that. It begs the question, though; what can Sony do to recover?
I own both an Xbox 360 and a PS3, and while I much prefer the latter's hardware stability and next-gen appeal, I'd go with Microsoft's console every day of the week when its comes to online. It's no secret Sony is playing catch-up to Live's slew of features, and while offering customers the chance to game online for free is a major differentiator, Sony has yet to reap the rewards of their generosity.
The Playstation Network has made major leaps forward in the last couple of years, but an outage like this - where Sony is scrambling to find out what or who caused the problem, and how they can repair it - makes me glad I invest in Xbox Live's stability. I bought my last Xbox Live Gold Membership for thirty pounds, and it included an extra two months free. That equates to less than three pounds a month. For that, I can enjoy all the best parts of Xbox Live and feel safe in the knowledge that a crash - if it were to occur - is more likely to be a hardware glitch of malfunction and be repaired very soon.
What's most concerning about the Playstation Network outage is just what caused it. We don't know, and Sony doesn't seem to either. Of course, they claim to be 'investigating every possibility', and have even had to admit an outside party may be responsible. The obvious answer was Anonymous, although they've been pretty explicit in stating they are not behind the attack. Whether they're telling the truth or not is unclear; but I'd imagine they'd be pretty chuffed if they were.
More is at stake than Sony's reputation, however; paying PSN subscribers store confidential information on their accounts, and with the attack bringing down the entire service, it's not beyond imagination to think accessing accounts is possible. What if those responsible hacked all our accounts and stole precious data, like credit card details? Then the issue would be far more dire.
The Playstation Network won't be back online today. And by the looks of things, it won't be back tomorrow, either. Sony's rhetoric so far has been less than comforting. They appear worried and worryingly baffled. When the service is back up and running, it'll be interesting to see how Sony can convince us it won't happen again? It obviously requires further safe-proofing, but would that mean Sony needs to now start charging for being a PSN subscriber? That might sound ridiculous, but major network improvements require manpower, and that demands money. Sony has only recently started making money off just subscribers - with their PSN + option - but could we see them employing a model similar to Microsoft's in the future?
Rest assured we'll be all over the PSN outage situation in the coming weeks, and will report on it as soon as developments occur. In the meantime, enjoy your bank holiday, Dealspwners!