Friday Roundtable: What Will Happen to Sony?

Sony, Sony, Sony. You can’t go anywhere on the internet lately without hearing more about the breach of their servers that resulted in personal data of their 77 million PlayStation Network customers being stolen, forcing them to completely bring down PSN for over a week in a mad scramble to contain the damage. Some people feel concerned, angry, and betrayed. Others are more sympathetic to Sony’s plight and are waiting for this all to blow over. Several of our staff were affected by “PSN-gate”, and today Joe, Sebastian, Chad, Rexly, and Pascal share their thoughts.

Joe:

As much of a debacle as this has been, in all honesty I’m not sure I see Sony losing too many customers over this. Are they fully to blame for what happened? In a way, yes. They’ve come forward saying that while customer credit card information was encrypted, other information was not. I don’t care how tight security is on your software, saving information that your customers have trusted you with in the equivalent of a Notepad document is irresponsible.

The way they handled it was insulting. They waited HOW MANY DAYS after the breach to contact their customers? I don’t have a REAL PSN account as I don’t have a PS3, but I have bought games on my PSP and I just got the email YESTERDAY, a full three days or so after their delayed press release.

Is this doing damage to their reputation? Absolutely. Politicians are even getting riled up over it. Gamers, though, are a fickle bunch. I can’t imagine any other group of media enthusiasts who cling so tightly to the companies that they love, giving them free passes when they screw up. Just like Nintendo and Microsoft, Sony has die-hard fans who are willing to forgive and forget as long as PSN comes back online and things return to normal.

I don’t think Sony will lose many existing customers, because a lot of people have invested a lot of time and money into their PS3 identity. They have trophies, friends, and purchases that they may not be willing to part with, which in a way is understandable. However, I think that this will prevent them from gaining customers in the future. I’ve already been pretty turned off by Sony this generation, despite me owning and loving both the PS1 and PS2 (I won’t go into that, it’s not relevant to this article), and this has pretty much sealed the deal as far as me purchasing any of their products in the future. This has put them in a really tough spot and it’ll be quite the task trying to convince new consumers to make the plunge.

I am, in fact, affected by this as well. I bought two PS1 games on my PSP a couple of years ago and those tiny purchases have now forced me to change my passwords and keep an eye on my bank account.

I stopped commenting on Kotaku after the Gawker hack a couple of months ago, and I think I’ll keep my personal information off of Sony’s servers after this as well.

Sebastian:

Like everyone else, I’m angry at Sony for this. I do think they told us as soon as they figured out, judging by the number of “we don’t know yet” articles before they said everything was stolen. I honestly believe that they didn’t know definitively yes or no until that time.

That doesn’t excuse them (or Microsoft for that matter) for not having adequate protection of our personal information. I mean, they got everything. The protection couldn’t have been that good. We voluntarily signed up for this site, and they had a responsibility to keep our information safe, and they completely failed. Now they need to adequately ensure that they have my information kept safe if I am ever to trust them with information again.

However, for people that are already existing customers that don’t want to deal with it, they can always buy PSN cards if they’re truly intent with the whole “Okay, not trusting them anymore.” People can always make up the info, so at the same time, if you don’t trust them and still already have a PS3, there’s still a way to continue making your purchases.

And Sony, those purchases are going to slow down. Extremely. They’re going to have to be able to convince a staggering amount of people that they have increased their protection, and even then people are still not really going to trust them. Not to bring it back to something so simple, but if they really want damage control, they’ll have to put out good games. The combination of the two will have people saying “oh, well it’s protected now”, because they can’t resist the allure of Flower, or Uncharted 3 DLC, or what have you.

I know I seem a little bit apathetic about this situation as opposed to my normal fiery self, but that’s because, as I’ve said, I’m not convinced anyone is going to care by the time E3 rolls around. This isn’t something that one of Kevin Butler’s jokes is going to fix, and I hope they don’t try that route. Everyone will mock them, PSN users will be mad, and eventually, relatively soon even for this kind of a screw up, people will go back to being on Sony’s side, and trusting them with their credit card information. If somehow this gets even worse, then they’ll have to wait till the launch of the NGP at the end of the year. By then, we will have forgotten all about this, and while not everyone will fall back into Sony’s lap, the majority of people will just say, “Oh yeah, I remember that, it sucked.”

Oh, and Joe and I did the same thing actually. I stopped commenting on Gawker sites between my growing..not disdain, but seeing more and more that Kotaku’s not really what I’m looking for in a videogame website, and the hack, but there are many alternatives to Kotaku out there, like Bits ‘n’ Bytes Gaming. There’s only one PlayStation Network, and, like it or not, we need it.

Joe:

Seb, I’m curious… you say you can’t excuse Sony AND Microsoft for not protecting customer information, but as far as I know, nothing like this has ever happened to Xbox Live. Why throw Microsoft’s name in there when all evidence seems to indicate that they have our stuff locked up tight?

Sebastian:

I said Microsoft’s name as an offhand recognition of Microsoft having trouble with phishing scams over Xbox Live, from this article.

I mean, they’re just phishing scams so it’s nothing too major, but I couldn’t avoid adding Microsoft’s name either. They are and have almost always done an impeccable job with their online service, and are pretty much the ones who started the whole thing anyway, so I feel comfortable that nobody will hack it for my info. Then again, I felt confident about Sony until it actually happened, so who knows.

Joe:

There’s phishing scams in every online service, though. There’s not much you can do to prevent it except ban the accounts that are sending the messages. I’ve gotten plenty of phishing tells from scammers in World of Warcraft.

I think gaming sites are trying to play up the Xbox phishing thing in order to seem unbiased, but it’s not even NEAR the same level as Sony’s issue. You can’t prevent phishing, but you can store customer information in something other than an unencrypted text file with a note that says “please don’t take this”.

Sebastian:

Oh absolutely, Microsoft is nowhere near on the same level as Sony on this one. I am not biased at all, Sony’s really fucked up, legally, financially, and ethically, save for when they told us.

Also, you’re giving Sony way too much credit here: “Please don’t take this”? That text file probably had something like “THIS IS NOT PERSONAL INFORMATION OF ALL OF OUR CUSTOMERS” on it.

Chad:

For me it’s a pretty big deal. Enough that I’m giving serious consideration to abandoning the system altogether. It’s the peculiar combination of fear and inconvenience that gets to me. I mean, Xbox Live might be down for a little while, but from what I’ve read they seem more communicative and open about their crisis situations. And when they screw up, they tend to make up for it. Sony has some major damage control (and ass-kissing) ahead for my full faith in them to be restored.

Rexly:

When I first heard the news, I actually considered the idea of switching to an Xbox. My first console was the original PlayStation and my next gaming console after that was the PS2. My interest in videogames started because of the PlayStation, and when this crisis started, I was so angry that I really wanted to buy an Xbox just to show Sony how pissed off I was.

However, after much thought, I might just stick to Sony, but they have some major redeeming to do. No hack of this severity has occurred on any console before, and the fact that this actually happened just shows how much work that Sony has to do in order to not only keep their customers, but to also attract new customers, and sadly I don’t think multiple commercials of Kevin Butler, VP of the “Important News Too Late” Communications Team, is enough.

I’m glad they are now keeping us up-to-date and being more open about it, but I wish they told the customers sooner. I read somewhere that there are about 75 million people on the PSN. That is a lot of private information that was exposed. I’m with Chad on Sony needing to do some MAJOR work if they want my full support again.

Pascal:

I’m not personally invested on a PS3, so I don’t really have a dog in this fight. I did buy a used one, but it’s already in need of repair, so I’ve never had a chance to go onto PSN or even play it at all (ironically, I now need to to contact Sony and exchange personal payment info with them for the repair). This didn’t hit too close to home with me, so feel free to disregard my response if you want.

As someone who’s been exclusive to the Xbox 360 during the current console cycle, I am a little removed from all this mess. Nonetheless, I can’t even go to my kitchen for a snack lately without hearing of a new development in this debacle. So here’s my two cents’ worth:

I’m hearing a lot about whether consumers can forgive Sony enough to give them a second chance or not, and that Sony will have to “promise real hard” next time to be better. What about the legal ramifications of this, if and when any hacked data is used for evil instead of good; is Sony immune to legal responsibilities when their systems cause our information to be disseminated?

The comparison of Sony to a bank being robbed has been made on numerous occasions, so I’ll use that to make my case. If my money is taken in a bank heist, I will certainly have a decidedly more outraged demeanor than “Okay Bank, don’t be that way again”. I would expect to be compensated for any losses incurred, for which banks carry ample insurance. Apart from doing some ass-kissing, is Sony ready to compensate legions of gamers?

Finally, the bittersweet irony isn’t lost on me: Mere weeks and months ago, Sony was pounding its collective chest by going after Geohotz for breaking their legally binding end-user agreement. Now I feel it’s time to look at them and point out that they’ve, in fact, failed to uphold their end of whatever written or implied agreement exists between consumer and corporation. I’m certainly no sue-happy individual, nor do I condone that type of behavior, but now it’s the consumers’ turn to pound our chests for once, and not just give Sony an “I’m disappointed in you, Son” finger wag.

Chad:

I think the image (hastily altered in MS Paint) says everything I want to say.

Joe:

I think today’s Penny Arcade sums it up well.

I’m waiting to see what Sony says when this is all over. If we’ve learned anything through this, it’s that Sony is completely incapable of communicating with their customers in any kind of meaningful way. They spend so much time promoting their stuff with “Hey, the stuff the other guys are doing? Garbage. We’re way more awesome.” They have a situation on their hands where the personal information of 77 MILLION of their customers is stolen and they say “Well, shit. We did what we could on our end but they stole it anyway. You guys are gonna want to change your logins, probably. Oh, it’s also possible they got your credit card. Peace.”

Tycho from Penny Arcade said it best:

“They have a serious problem here, and as serious as their technology problem might be, it’s not the biggest one they have. Their problem is that they don’t know how to communicate about anything but their legendary prowess. They simply don’t have it. I mean, genetically. They need to find a human being, or hire one, and start an actual dialogue with users.

They need to do this last Friday.”

There’s been no REAL apology, no announcement of a way to make this up to their users. They’re well on their way to a class-action lawsuit. They need to do SOMETHING, but from my perspective they’re content to sit there and go, “Eh, shit happens.”

The BnB writers have shared their thoughts, and now it’s your turn. Were you affected by the data hack? What precautions have you taken? Will you continue purchasing Sony products or have you decided to part ways?


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