Sony’s PSN has been down for nine days, at the time of this writing, and isn’t back up yet. Sony says it won’t be back up until Tuesday, which is nothing more than a guess. A guess, not a straight answer. I’ve spent that whole time living a totally normal life; I hung out with some friends, saw Source Code, wrote, and relearned why I love Netflix. But it’s Friday, and I’d love to play some MAG. Or online Black Ops. Or multiplayer Uncharted 2. Or even a new map on LittleBigPlanet 2.
I can’t, of course.
So, I browse to Sony’s official PlayStation blog. What do they have? Seven posts on the outage: two Q&A, and five posts with “updates” regarding the continued outage of the PlayStation Network. Of course, those posts are comprised of swiss-cheese and legalese. There are numerous, small holes in the information provided. Some of it is the lacking information is understandable (there is an ongoing criminal investigation, after all), and some of it isn’t.
Hey, Sony: you’re doing it wrong. A smart company could turn this near-disaster into a win, one that rallies their customers behind the PlayStation brand.
Sony needs to have a voice in their blog updates and PR releases. Don’t make it sound like an unfeeling metallic monster chose a bunch of questions, and then answered them in the most boring fashion that it could conjure up. That’s probably my biggest complaint with all of the blog updates as of yet (“yet” referring to today, April 29th at 5:30 Central Standard Time). Make it sound like you care, like you realize that it wasn’t something totally random, that you should have been at least a little prepared, like it wasn’t the engineers fault. Take the blame, guys. People need a someone to hate on a bit. It’s human nature. However, don’t elect a singular scapegoat. It’s the entire managerial team’s fault. Tell us that you messed up, that you should have been more prepared for an attack like this. And honestly, you should have been.
Sony needs That One Guy. Apple had their One Guy when reports of “antennagate” were everywhere. That was, of course, Steve Jobs. If it hadn’t, Apple would have stepped someone else up to the plate (possibly Tim Cook, or maybe Johnny Ive). That’s because they knew that, when they came under fire for something, their company needs to be more personable. A public image of a human, just like you and me, not a glossy, steel Apple logo that blocks out all criticism. Microsoft even does this, even when their product isn’t under fire.
Sony needs to explain what happened, and how you’re fixing it, and how you have realized that you messed up badly. I’d prefer that it’s done in a press conference, á la Apple’s “antennagate” conference, or at E3. Don’t just shoot out a press release or email to all of your customers (though feel free to do that after the fact, and include a transcription and video of said conference). That feels weak, worthless, like you couldn’t be bothered to spend a little bit more cash on something that would mean more. Buy us chocolate, not some of that crappy hard candy that has sat in the same shelf for years.
Don’t assume the air of superiority that Apple sometimes gets away with. You aren’t that company; nobody loves you enough to allow you to slyly talk down to them. Apple can get away with that, sometimes. For example, check out this PR release explaining their location caching. Now imagine it being read by Steve Jobs. You can just slightly hear a snarky tone, like Jobs personally dictated it and felt that the whole thought of Apple tracking your location was utterly ridiculous.
Don’t say that you’ve fixed the problem, and then let it happen again. After this is over, I want to hear Sony stand up at E3 and tell the world that they messed up, but that they learned. They learned that security isn’t something that can be skated around. Mostly, though, I’d love for them to fix one central part of this problem: decouple the various components that form the PlayStation Network. Keep the branding the same, but don’t allow one central service to be hacked, and that result in everything falling, like dominoes.
Don’t let this affect your future. Your brand is still strong, and you have some interesting concepts and products in the pipeline. Push those forward. That NGP had better be here by the Holiday season. You have an amazing line-up for the rest of the year on the PS3. Keep that in the works, and do anything and everything to make sure those developers can make the best game possible. Continue to give us features; the PS3 could use a major update to revamp the UI. That included browser? Crap. Work with Google, or simply take Chromium and make it work on the Cell processor. That, by itself, would be an impressive upgrade and show us nerds that you still care.
This isn’t going to be the end of Sony’s PlayStation brand. It simply won’t be; even if they continue to bungle their way through this, there will be a PlayStation 4.
This continuous outage might help to strengthen the resolve of XBox owners to stay loyal to Microsoft, and it might even make a few Wii guys chuckle (but don’t; your online is crap even compared to a down PlayStation Network ) as the play the newest online shooter, or adventure game.
I am a Sony fan. I’m not a fanboy, because the only device that I continue to love is the PlayStation. However, I do feel like they have something in their DNA that other companies (not even Apple) have. When they let it shine, it’s amazing: the Walkman, the original PlayStation, the PlayStation 2, and (in a lot of ways) the PlayStation 3. The problem is that that awesome-sauce DNA isn’t shining right now, and it hasn’t been for a while.