Sony’s ‘Holiday Thank You’ Completely Misses the Point

In response to Lizard Squad’s massive attack against PlayStation Network and Xbox Live that brought each service offline for days, Sony has just offered players a five day extension of their PlayStation Plus memberships and a 10% coupon to be used in the PlayStation Store. It’s an offer that rings hollow and completely misses the point of what was so distressing about the outage.

PlayStation Network has never had a great track record. Its in-game performance is often spotty, and its download speeds are slow. It has lagged behind Xbox Live and Steam in basic functionality for years. It goes down frequently for “routine maintenance.” It was taken offline for 23 days in 2011 after the personal details of 77 million user accounts were stolen during a hack so dramatic it earned its own Wikipedia page and Sony had to answer to the US House of Representatives. That’s why it was so significant during Sony’s February 2013 reveal of the PlayStation 4 that it promised to improve its network. The “fastest gaming network in the world,” it vowed. It had learned from the failings of the PlayStation 3, of the network hack, of the superior service offered by competitors. It’s just too bad that, like most of the features promised during that reveal, Sony has failed to follow through.

Here’s the problem with Sony’s statement: It is completely oblivious to the valid concerns its customers have. Sony has still, thus far, not even officially recognized Lizard Squad’s attack as the cause of the downtime, which flies directly in the face of the 2011 network hack when Sony was widely criticized for taking so long to inform its customers of the network compromise. It was irresponsible then, and it’s irresponsible now not to own up to the true cause of the outage. Instead, all we get is a vague admission that “access to PlayStation Network was impacted during the holidays.” But that’s not the only problem.

[Update: As pointed out by several users, Sony had indeed issued a statement that directly called out the DDoS attacks as the cause for the outage. That’s my mistake; I should’ve found that before writing this post. However, I still believe my other points still stand: Xbox Live recovered from the attacks much faster than PlayStation Network, but even when not under attack, Sony’s network is still the slowest and least secure, and that’s a problem.]

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From top to bottom, the entire statement reads like it had been written 20 minutes prior, full of unclear terms and indefinite timelines. In regards to the free five days of PlayStation Plus, Sony writes, “We will post additional information here on PlayStation.Blog when the extension becomes available.” Players who do not already have a Plus account will get their five days “once the extension becomes available (we will notify you when).” As well, the 10% off coupon for the PlayStation Store will be available “sometime this month.” It’s baffling that Sony would put out a statement with so many uncertainties and speaks volumes to Sony’s level of commitment to improving its network.

I’ve had a PlayStation Plus subscription for three years now. I’m not interested in a five-day extension. That does nothing for me. I didn’t even get a chance to play anything during the Christmas outage, so it didn’t affect or inconvenience me at all. And frankly, I find a 10% limited discount code to be actually insulting. Why should I reward Sony for not being prepared for an attack threatened weeks in advance by spending money in its store?

What I want, and what we as gamers should demand, is that Sony finally make good on its promises from almost two years ago, that in exchange for mandating a paid subscription to access multiplayer on PlayStation 4, it would deliver a truly fast, reliable, and safe network. I still maintain that the blame for the attacks should be on Lizard Squad, but that by no means excuses Sony for its lackluster network.