What Should Sony Really Give Their Customers Over 80710A06?

By Adam Ma on May 3, 2011, 10:10PM EDT

It's hard to cope when an electronic of any sort breaks, be it your computer or your microwave, but when it functions only part of the way it was meant to, people tend to get genuinely frustrated. Couple that with security leaks, and potential identity theft on a mass scale and it's understandable why so many people have been up in arms over Sony's security fiasco. Fanboys from both sides have been slinging mud at one another while Sony has valiantly attempted to settle some of the dust revolving around their unfortunate security leaks. As things start to clear a bit - or at least become less dramatic than they initially began, Sony has taken the time to respectfully apologize in a variety of ways. Free Playstation Plus for a month, bonus time to existing premium subscribers, and press conferences featuring lots of Japanese businessmen bowing has all been on the menu, but it makes one wonder if it's all really enough. Or better yet, does Sony even owe us anything at all?

Some part of me says yes, but on a very complex and elusive level. Being a free 'service,' Sony really has no obligations to someone such as myself if their system does go down, but on another level the platform exists to play video games, some of which are solely dependent on online functions. The fact that the Playstation sells games such as MAG, Warhawk or even Modern Warfare means that they've upheld the image of being a system that offers an online entertainment experience that's comparatively competitive to the Xbox 360. So by not paying for the service, do I really have no say in how well they should be maintaining them, regardless of the fact that gamers will purchase titles based upon its continued existence? If Sony wishes to stay competitive in the industry, yes, since an offline-only platform needs to offer something completely unique in order keep its head afloat in such competitive waters.

The hard part here is trying to figure out exactly what Playstation owners will accept as an apology, mostly because the dust around the issue has yet to settle. Free Playstation Plus seems a little lackluster considering the normal service isn't even up yet, and even now there are rumors that my personal information may still be compromised as Sony-related services continue to have problems. I'd rather the whole thing just get fixed and everyone move on. Being able to play Mortal Kombat sooner than later online would be a real gift right now.

Unfortunately, that's one of the natural pitfalls of a free system and if it wasn't for the fact that the personal information of quite a few consumers is floating around 'somewhere' right this moment, I doubt Sony would be informing us of anything. Giving consumers free things due to an accident such as this is one thing, but as for the downtime that PSN has suffered? Gamers should really expect nothing. There's no reason to really, as the entire service is provided for free. One would make an argument that if an online game shuts down consumers should receive compensation, but really a situation like that is extremely different compared to how most gamers seem to generalize things. Realistically if a multiplayer title is having issues, one will normally look towards the developers to fix things and if they don't, sales suffer in future titles. Alternatively, if one is experiencing lag online due to poor game design in a title that requires a monthly subscription, it's fair enough to imagine that if the problem isn't fixed, the developer is again responsible in some form to give something back to customers: case in point, Square Enix and Final Fantasy XIV.

Ultimately the issue here isn't just a multiplayer service being down, but rather consumer information being compromised by outside, and presumably malicious, hands. That's what gamers should realistically be asking for repayment for, but what would they even get then? When major credit card companies experience any kind of information compromise, do they actively pay back their customers in some form? Generally the most anyone asks is that their money is safe, steps are being taken to protect their information and (at worst) a new card is being sent in the mail. Perhaps some extremely petty adults will request a different picture on their card, but beyond that life simply moves on. I expect the exact same thing from Sony in this instance, just like anyone else. Inform us of what steps are being taken to protect my information, and get services back to normal
operations ASAP. Making sure this doesn't happen in the future is the best way to ensure customer loyalty.

Regardless, an incident such as this certainly doesn't make PS3 any more or less safe than the Xbox 360. It simply raises some questions as to accountability. Petty fanboys will keep track of the days, minutes, or seconds that Xbox Live or PSN have been unavailable for, but both services have honestly had a better track record than a few of my computer gaming experiences with a lot less cheating to boot. Maybe this is the reason that all console-based online interactions should be subscription-based or paid for in some manner. Then at least gamers would be able to hold someone immediately accountable and then be able to easily define what sort of compensation they would like to receive in exchange for their pain. If Xbox Live was down for a week, one would certainly expect the very base return would be a free week of service for subscribing members. But PSN? How exactly do you put a value on something available for free.

It's entirely possible to, yes, but at the end of the day Sony owes us nothing more than an apology. I'll enjoy tinkering around with PSN Plus for a little while at the very least, but many probably won't give the feature a second glance. There's really nothing adequate the company can give their customers at this point, outside of the truth and the creation of a more reliable online service. Perhaps toss in cross-game chat to make it on par with just about every other online platform. Rumor says Sony is working on that as we speak. In the meantime, it's best that everyone just kick back, relax, read a book and perhaps (for those really obsessive fans) it's best to just walk away from your console for the next day or two. The best thing Sony could possibly give us is our free service back, because until some actual reports of identity theft come forth, or an audit shows that Sony did balls to protect customer information, they don't really owe anyone a damn thing.

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