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Opinion: PlayStation Brand Faces Uncertain Future
Opinion: PlayStation Brand Faces Uncertain Future
April 29, 2011 | By Colin Campbell




[All brands face distressing episodes at one time or another. Some work their way through the crisis with smart PR and social outreach. Others aggravate the situation with secrecy and tired deflective tricks. Which one is Sony? Gamasutra business editor Colin Campbell investigates.]

There was a time -- let's say, for argument's sake, from 1996 to 2004 -- when the PlayStation brand was awe-inspiring. PlayStation represented all the shining possibilities of the future. Brilliantly, PlayStation ran with the goodwill Sony built up in the 1980s with the Walkman, and super-boosted this reputation for design and technical excellence as well as a natural empathy for what people wanted.

But things do tend towards entropy. Today, the PlayStation brand is in gentle decline. And the events of the past week could accelerate that decline into something more serious. Especially if Sony continues to handle the crisis with the incompetence it has thus far demonstrated.

Brands are weird. They are both robust and delicate. On the one hand, the mythos of Sony's excellence doesn't just go away, any more than Toyota's formidable reputation did after its troubles last year.

On the other, the brand has already slipped from pre-eminence to also-ran, and this debacle can't do it any good. The PlayStation brand has been in decline for the entire life-cycle of PlayStation 3, while the Xbox and Nintendo brands have been steadily rising even through their own turmoils, like RROD and Wii's general faddishness. Unarguably, PlayStation is no longer a byword for next generation entertainment.

If Sony wants to come through this present crisis with the PlayStation brand relatively unsullied it needs to make some big changes to how it approaches the outside world, and how it views itself. Sony has always behaved like a dictator, benevolently dispensing information to favored sycophants according to its own desires. But we live in an age of communal equality, of disrespect and distrust of authority. The sycophants are still there. But fewer and fewer people are listening.

The people demand that errant brands 'fess up, tell us what the hell is going on, and they'd better be polite about it.

I spoke to Karen Post, author of Brand Turnaround: How Brands Gone Bad Returned to Glory (due to be published in the fall by McGraw-Hill). She points out that smart brands can turn disaster into a win.

"A few years back JetBlue experienced a major operational meltdown, leaving passengers in an awful, compromised place. Once the dust and emotions settled, JetBlue made major improvement to their customer service and operational policies and even created a highly publicized Passenger Bill of Rights that has now been adopted by the industry."

It is no coincidence that JetBlue spends a lot of time and effort on its social media outreach, using its blogs as a fun way to connect with people, instead of merely a dreary corporate mouthpiece and bucket for PR assets, which is the norm in the game industry.

Domino's Pizza has scored a lot of success in the last 12 months by admitting that its pizzas were kinda nasty, and offering a better product. This sort of humorous groveling has its place, although I doubt it would work for Sony, because the company sells stature, not comfort. It sells the idea of power, which is difficult to square with overtly goofy marketing.

Toyota's approach was to remind people that it has a long record of excellence and that, surely, takes precedence over the small matter of an eight million car recall and alleged loss of life. But old games consoles don't play as well as classic cars, and I think Sony will need to look forward and not back.

Some brands -- for example bona fide scumbags like BP and Goldman Sachs -- seem to be able to get away with deflecting blame elsewhere and utilizing various dirty PR tricks. But Sony is not selling oil or greed, it's selling pretty electronic gadgets and entertainment. It's selling a dream, and so it needs to make sure its response chimes with the brand's own properties of being in tune. It needs to be loved. This is why the duff notes coming out of Foster City are so excruciating.

A Sorry Spectacle

Here's a little test for you. Which of the following statements are you most likely to agree with in one year's time.

A: "Sony handled that situation amazingly. They held their hands up and took appropriate share of blame. They outlined a clear plan of action to remedy the situation and they made sure all stakeholders were recompensed beyond reasonable expectations. They showed their human side and came out of this a stronger company."

B: "It just kinda went away, didn't it? Sony entirely laid the blame on the hackers, launched a lot of legal flak, refused to take any responsibility, offered the minimum clarity and token recompense. But no-one cares any more. At least they've encrypted my personal data now."

I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that answer B is looking a whole lot more likely than answer A.

So far, Sony's response has been predictably pitiful. The best it could do was send out an email and post a blog Q&A. Sony's bloodless blog update makes depressing reading. Here is Sony skirting with the issue of its own culpability...

"We sincerely regret any inconvenience or concern this outage has caused."

Note the phrase "this outage," as if it were an unfortunate spot of inclement weather.

The statement ought to have said...

"We made a mistake here. We picked a fight we couldn't win, and, even with an attack highly likely, we neglected to protect your stuff."

You'll note that when it comes to protecting its own data, copyrights, money, margins, power, Sony is the model of efficiency and scruples. This is why GamePro called Sony's slowness to inform the public "an astounding breach of trust." When Sony wants to be good at something, everything is dandy.

Sony's poor record in PR is nothing new. Ars Technica's Ben Kuchera tweeted, "Sony, as a company, has been utterly tone deaf throughout the entirety of the news cycle. I can't think of a single right move Sony has made in the PR department in the past three months."

Pat Garratt at VG247 noted, "This long-lasting silence is Sony's biggest failing, not just because it shows disrespect for users, but also because it left time for misinformation, rumor, speculation and lies -- the four horsemen of the PR disaster apocalypse."

Sony, and some of its apologists, are already making the case that this whole mess is NOT SONY'S FAULT. In the company's blog post, it uses the phase "malicious attack" twice, and refers to the "criminal" act, also twice. I don't deny that Sony is the victim of a criminal act. But, so's the bumbling bank manager who leaves the vault door open. This attempt to deflect all the blame on the hackers is a sorry spectacle.

I'm not here to drag Sony through the mud for its incompetent custodianship of your data. Rather for its inability to respond to the crisis. For me, the Sony PlayStation brand is being eroded by Sony's own charmless posturing. The most human thing to come out of the company this week was the statement that the hackers would be hunted down "no matter where in the world they might be located." Surely this is the least attractive response imaginable; the cry-baby tough guy.

Where's Kevin Butler?

What Sony conspicuously lacks is a likable human being who can get in front of the cameras and make us feel some empathy with the brand -- a real-life Kevin Butler. (Oh for good ol' Phil Harrison about now.)

The company should be booking halls around the country and inviting PSN users in for an open Q&A -- hosted by a genuine tough-journalist, not some rent-a-mic ass kisser -- all shown live and connected to an impressive social media wave. All the nasty stuff's got to come out sooner or later -- better this way than in some painful Senate investigation on CSPAN.

Instead of leaving hundreds of loyal followers bobbing around in the frigid seas of its blog, questions unanswered, Sony should have a small armies of nice people contacting the fans directly, offering encouragement and support.

Sony should be booking ads outlining exactly what it's doing, and releasing video docs on YouTube showing us men in white coats explaining what happened, how it's going to be fixed, and what the affected consumers should do. Deutsch/LA should be working on a new ad right now in which Kevin Butler does his thing, getting everyone on board Sony's transparent and believable story about the crisis.

Right now, highly influential outlets like Reddit are teeming with funny virals about Sony. One cartoon shows PlayStation 3 as a useless first date because it's "insecure." Another riffs on the Scumbag Steve meme, positing Sony as a sociopath. There's even a re-appearance of Kanye.

These are the messages that are leaving the biggest impression. Maybe Sony thinks it can drown out all this noise with a big, deflective E3 showing, or an ad campaign on Fox later in the year, or some free DLC. If so, they're wrong.

Here's Sony's problem. In order for people to allow the brand into their lives, they have to identify with its values. Sony's values have always been attractive and alluring. Right now, Sony is hiding. That's not attractive. It does not allure. It frustrates and it annoys.

I asked Karen Post what's the worst things a brand like Sony could do right now. She said, "Fail to focus on finding answers. Fail to be transparent and honest. Behave like cry babies. Underestimate social media."

Sound familiar?

[As well as being business editor for Gamasutra, Colin Campbell works for a marketing agency. You can follow him on Twitter at @brandnarrative.]


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Comments


Robert Boyd
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What Sony should do - a humble apology, $20 added to everyone's PSN account, and improved communication from here on.



What Sony will do - "We highly regret that you're all angry at us, but it's really not our fault. Here's a free PSP wallpaper. Now shut up."



And yes, despite the fact that this affected both PSP & PS3 users, I fully expect that whatever compensation Sony gives out (if they give any at all) will be either PS3 or PSP exclusive, because they care that little.

[User Banned]
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Jamie Mann
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People don't want to be compensated for loss of access to a free service. They want to be compensated for the fact that Sony has let a hacker steal their personal data, which may in turn compromise their banking details and credit rating.

[User Banned]
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Stephen Horn
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Forget the service outage, that's really a non-issue. How about the potential for identity fraud against anyone who's purchased anything from PSN?



Because on the one hand, Sony claims the data was maybe not accessed (they aren't certain). On the other hand, MSNBC is spreading panic by running a story about how 2.2 million PSN users' credit card data is being sold over the intertubes, complete with expiry dates and CVV2 codes. That story may even be credible, as indicated by that poor fellow in Australia who was taken for $2000 (as reported by ABC News in Australia).



http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42806008/ns/technology_and_science-se
curity/

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/04/28/3202046.htm

Robert Boyd
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People want to be compensated because A) their personal data (and possible CC info) has been stolen due to Sony's negligence and B) many people have paid money for things that they can't use because of the outage.



For example, I bought $60 worth of PSN cards to buy some games, figured I'd use them the next day and discovered the next day that the server was down. Other people bought online games and can't play them. Other people bought Portal 2 hoping to activate a PC version and can't play them. A few people even purchased a PSP Go only to discover that they can't buy any games for it.



And anyway, the correct question isn't "why should people be compensated?" It's "what can Sony do to turn a PR disaster that could ruin their gaming division permanently around?"

Marcus Miller
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Just give them a free avatar t-shirt. That is all they deserve.

Jerry Hall
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The PR guys that draft these blogs have to be careful, not to accept any fault / negligence or they risk law suits. Any lawyer will tell you, no litigation is better than litigation.

Christopher Enderle
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@Marcus "I survived PSN Outage 2011 and all I got was this stupid shirt."

[User Banned]
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Anthony Clay
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Because Sony has never demanded/extorted cash from anyone ^_^

Fiore Iantosca
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Sony has some of the worst PR I have seen ANYWHERE

Robert Boyd
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This kind of mess can be reversed. Just look at Tylenol. Big problem with bottles being tampered with and people actually dying. They did a big apology PR campaign and they've been back on top for years.



Right now, Sony needs to get someone who is really good at groveling and stick them in a highly visible place for several months.

Fabio Macedo
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It's easy enough to write something full of doom and gloom and shield oneself calling anyone who disagrees sycophants.



So I will keep this link close by and wait for two years. Don't fret when I return here laughing at the author's naivete and feeble attempt to fearmonger.

R G
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Seriously?



In two years, we are gonna be in the same situation. Sony is declining because of simple mistakes, and they can easily fix them. No one wants them to fail.

Richard Vaught
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Yes, Fabio, we get it. Sony was hacked. Hackers are criminals, and need to be prosecuted. We get it. We really do. Ok. That does not alleviate Sony's responsibility to its consumers, or its responsibility to protect their private sensitive data. The article was well written, cited respected knowledgable people on the subject, and talked about companies other than Sony. Sony's handling of the situation has been poor. End of story. This article merely points out things they could do to make it better, and everything it listed would be in the long term best interest of Sony, even if they hadn't been hacked.



So please, close your mouth now unless you have something intelligent or informative to say. Your whining and posturing is actually very reminiscent of Sony, which might explain why you support them so strongly. After all, you can identify with them.



Kindest Regards,

Dave Long
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I'm with you Fabio - there's a whole lot of people here who are very much emotionally lost in the moment (and largely lacking perspective). Don't feel bad, those that are doing this, humans place a strong emphasis on short-term emotion, and very few have much in the way of skills in seeing through the emotional haze out beyond the next few days (let alone weeks). But I reckon that by Christmas this year, this'll be ancient history. Unlike the RROD (where MS sold dodgy products knowingly for months), this is a relatively short-term blue, and at worst one of making a mistake, rather than knowingly duping their customers.

[User Banned]
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Ujn Hunter
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Really? I don't go to BP.

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Brandon Sheffield
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the difference with BP is you don't have a lot of choice in terms of where your oil comes from tons of tiny gas companies get theirs from BP, and you'll never know. In Sony's case, there is a choice, and that's what's dangerous. The consoles are decreasingly differentiated, so bad PR can be bad business, here.

SDF River
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I'll just point to the RROD. Gone, but not forgotten.

Rod Boyd
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Yes, but Microsoft stepped up, admitted they were at fault, and spent $1B on repairing the damage -- which gained them a lot of credibility and respect from many of those affected. Even so, as you point out, the RROD is still not forgotten. Can you imagine how much worse it would be if they had taken the approach that Sony appears now to be taking? Sony is currently experiencing their own equivalent of the RROD and they can expect it to go a lot worse if they don't change their attitude.

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ferret johnson
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I don't understand why everyone thinks Sony responded so badly. I really don't. They brought down PSN as soon as they knew there was an intrusion -- which is exactly right. They blogged about it daily... which is more info than we normally get. They hired a high end security firm immediately. Perfect. They told us exactly what was taken as soon as they knew what was taken, but had warned us stuff might have been taken as soon as they knew there was an intrusion.



What else do people want? Tweets every ten minutes? I don't get it. I really don't. I'm perfectly satisfied with Sony's reaction.



Is it bad they got hacked? Yep. But that can, and does, happen to many big corporations (as well as banks). Do i wish the hackers didn't get my info? Yep. But... I don't fault how Sony has dealt with it so far.

Anthony Clay
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@ferret



Sony didn't come right out and say that they were hacked. That took them quite a few days to admit. It was just an "outage", remember?



Additionally, we're talking about 75 *million* people. Not dollars, people. Think about that number for a moment.



Each account has a full Name, address, email, and likely a password that gets reused all over the internet. Nevermind the credit card data.



Now think about 75 million potential cases of ID theft where the attacker has all your intimate details, provided by Sony.



Now here is where it's hard to feel sorry for Sony:



* Sony got hacked. When you go to a restaurant, and order a meal. Do you trust them with every personal detail, as well as a xerox of your banking cards, kept in their file cabinet behind a bar? Absolutely not.



If Sony can afford armies of lawyers, they can afford the best in penetration-testing too. Sony is a victim if they can show they were serious about security. My gut says, they have focused on litigation instead. In my eyes (and many others) Sony is negligent *AT*BEST*.



* Their profile was raised by taking Geohot to task over PS3 hacking. In case you haven't noticed, Anonymous is it's own legal system now - if a corporation attacks a hacker, you get hacked back. Agree or not, that's the new reality. I'm not saying Anon did it, but they could certainly join the fray.







Security-wise, Sony should have been "loaded-for-bear," not caught with their pant down.

Dave Long
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This! There's so much ridiculous, emotional, tabloid rubbish going on about this (something Gamasutra doesn't usually stoop too - shame Gamasutra, shame) it's almost like internet mass hysteria! When you read what the IT security professionals are saying (the real ones, not the people playing make-believe in blog posts or answers at the bottom of articles like these), Sony's playing it about as well as they can, and many many more corporations get hacked than we know about. So many, in fact, that it starkly highlights how unusually well Sony is treating us.



I'm not saying they did everything right - I personally believe they should have had all their personal details (and not just the credit card numbers) encrypted, but no large organisation of humans does everything right (or Gamasutra wouldn't have run this piece in the first place).

Bowie Owens
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Rod, could you please post a link to microsoft admitting fault. I would really like to read it because as far as I am aware they never actually admitted anything was wrong just that they could do better.

Brandon Karratti
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Wait a minute. Microsoft "Stepped Up?" What alternate reality are you living in?



The 360 was released at the end of 2005, with the RROD evident in an unspecified number of consoles. While Microsoft attempted to address the individual issues, they withheld in-house statistics and tried to claim that the issue was within the 5% Margin-of-Manufacturing-Error.



It wasn't until mid-2007 that they finally started offering extended warranties on those original units. That's about a year and a half of pussy-footing and denial that anything was actually wrong.



This PSN Shutdown happened just over two weeks ago. Trying to compare the two while making it seem like Microsoft "did it right" is extremely forgiving, seemingly biased, and remarkably short-sighted.



While Sony definitely could have done more, there are a lot of legal and logistical ramifications to consider in a situation like this. While Campbell's ideas have merit, it's very easy to be an armchair quarterback when you've got nothing to risk on the situation.



In this digital age where we all want information, results, and products immediately, we've got to realize that sometimes things just take some time. Relax. Let's see how everything shakes out, and then if Sony handles it badly, we can whine and cry about it.



But honestly. It's been two weeks. If your house is burglarized, how quickly are you going to just "get over it?"

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Jerry Hall
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Mr. Campbell: Excellent article. I enjoyed the viral video links. One of the challenges at Sony is there are too many layers of management. They need approval for everything. The game dept. execs are too out of touch with their customers and do not play games themselves. The do not know their customers and that's why they are no longer the market leader. However, it is not too late. Sony still makes a lot of good games, (not lately). I'm sure they will rebound just fine.

Alan Rimkeit
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deleted by user...

Sahle Alturaigi
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I suppose, however, no one will have the respect for Playstation-- perhaps Sony entierly if they continue to tackle intricate situations like this. I *liked* Sony... but their bad PR will seriously affect them in the long-run, in my opinion.

Richard Vaught
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I don't believe he ever implied that Sony was going to fold, just that it was going to suffer losses in its market share due to the lost trust of their customers and the loss of reputation. That is a fair enough statement. Sony will not fold because A) it is widely diversified, and B) because its customers have invested a lot of money into the products they purchased, and will continue to do so because it extends the value of that purchase. However, that it will leave a bad taste in their mouth that will be remembered when next gen consoles come out is still up for grabs and largly dependent on Sony's behavior from here on.

Tameem Amini
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But Nintendo is "Doom"... well it is if you ask some people online. And by that i mean, there is a certain portion of the gaming community that has a negative view of Nintendo and all their products. I go on a few other gaming sites, and recently during the whole project cafe rumor situation, there were quite a few gamers who said that they had no interest in any Nintendo product, because of the Nintendo 64 or GameCube.



Once a negative opinion about a company is establish, it is hard for that company to erase it. Just look at all the doomsayers around Nintendo, despite their current success this generation.

Kamruz Moslemi
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Ah, internet, you are so fickle, making mountains of molehills that no one will remember in a month. If the red ring debacle was no more an lasting anchor for the fortunes and goodwill of a company than it ended up being then such trifles are nothing. Outside of a few sensationalist outlets throwing fits over this because it gets reads the sound of this drum will grow fade and pass like so much else out of the short easily distracted hive memory of the internet.

Robert Boyd
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Eh, there are a lot of big differences between the red ring of death and this, but one of the biggest is that Microsoft had good public relations with the matter. I got a red ring of death. Called up Microsoft. They were very polite, fixed the problem free of charge and gave me a month of Live Gold for my troubles. Sure, it was annoying to be without my console for a couple of weeks, but they handled the situation as best they could.



Sony, on the other hand, has had awful PR with this whole mess. Oh and the Red Ring of death, awful though it was, never resulted in anyone's credit card & personal information being stolen.

Marcus Miller
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What about the fact that Microsoft rolled out the 360 knowing there was a overheating problem with it? I lost all confidence in Microsoft after this. Who hasn't?

SDF River
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Not I. I'd have to agree with Robert, as I had a very similar experience concerning my RROD. Microsoft has only improved over the lifespan of this generation of consoles, and I'm glad I placed my faith in them.

Next generation may be different for all companies involved. A clean slate and new hardware/software to promote.

I would like to add that even though Xbox Live is has a relatively steep price compared to PSN, Microsoft hasn't had a security breach of this magnatude. It may be that you get what you paid for.

Tameem Amini
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As Robert pointed out, this isn't like the RRoD situation. In one case, you lost your console, on the other, you lost your personal information and credit card information.



I can guarantee you that if people's credit card/personal information was actually taken, then they will remember this for a long, long time. As they will have to deal with the results of it, for a long, long time.

warren blyth
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Marcus, I honestly never cared about thr RRoD. I've even heard that they stole chip architecture from Sony, in their push to rush something out. don't care. never affected me.



However, when they raised the price of XboxLive with no attached explanation - they lost me forever. I went in and disabled auto-renew (close as you can come to cancelling?). Couldn't be more angry at them. Remain so.



This is why the Sony network failure is breaking my heart. I was all set to do a pompous victory dance when Portal2 proved more-open network were the future. I was a PS3 convert. Instead I find myself thinking maybe I should stop console gaming altogether and just go back to PC only gaming. bleh. depressing.

Robert Boyd
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The funny thing is that though they technically raised the price of XBox Live, in actuality they didn't. I can't log onto my silver XBox Live account without seeing a special deal on XBox Live where you pay a drastically lower price and maybe get a few games thrown in as well. As far as I can tell, they only raised the price to make the deals look even better.

Ron Dippold
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The RRoD and this security breach were each caused by the company being stupid and arrogant (in MS's case it was thinking they could save a few million bucks by doing their own design instead of paying the ASIC vendor to do it).



My X360 RRoDed . MS replaced it. End of problem. They apologized and ate the costs. I recently bought a new slim X360 and have no problem recommending them to other people as reliable now. The RRoD issue faded because /MS stepped up and made it better/, to the tune of about a billion dollars.



So how will Sony handle this? Not well so far, though it's still recoverable. My original PS3 (from before they crippled them so much) still works, but if you asked me which one I 'trust' more right now, it's the X360. Sony needs to fix /that/.

Jeremy Bolland
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I do not understand how people are saying this is worse than the RRoD. Until Sony says my information was stolen the blame is 100% on the hackers. Yes, Sony picked a fight they could not win and I respect them for taking the blame on that one. But when my XBox 360 RRoDed, I lost my gaming completely for weeks. The answer I got from Microsoft was "My bad. Let me get that for you." Exactly what Sony is doing, except I can still play all my games. I'm not hung out to dry with nothing because of something Sony did. And who is to say Microsoft is doing any better with our personal information than Sony? They just weren't the target of the hackers. Sony is doing everything they should be doing, and I don't blame them for not throwing some glitter on it and getting all puppies and rainbows with their customers. Stuff happens and they are managing it all. I have complete faith in Sony and that they will take care of the issue. At this point I am more pissed at when my XBox went RRoD then when my FREE PSN account went down. Don't get me wrong, I will be singing a different tune when I am the victim of credit card fraud because of Sony, but that hasn't happened yet. So lets not put Microsoft on a pedestal because they knowingly sold me a faulty console and then told me "Uh oh, here's a month of Live Gold. Hope that makes up for the weeks of nothing you had to endure."

Adam Bienias
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"We made a mistake here. We picked a fight we couldn't win, and, even with an attack highly likely, we neglected to protect your stuff."

That is very, very, wrong statement. Can you imagine president of USA saying that after every terrorists attack ? "Uh, sorry we didn't know that terrorist will blow up another two buildings. How about a free cap of cappuccino for everyone ? oh, yeah, and for a future, don't mess with them and obey THEIR law."

Alan Rimkeit
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Sure, because those two things are totally comparable right? o.O

Dave Long
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This is actually a good analogy - shame Alan and Brent lack the imagination to conceptualise the fundamentals behind these two ideas appropriately.

[User Banned]
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R G
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I love the generalization of "hackers". I'm a hacker, I get paid to do it, white hat style for my company. Somebody has to test security.



Am I evil? Last time I checked my alignment was "Good" (not Lawful Good all the time, but hey...).

Maurício Gomes
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GeoHot talk about that on his blog, he explains that the media will never use the term Cracker, to them everyone is a hacker, do not matter if they use their skills for good or not.

Travis Cole
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Get your act together Sony! We NEED you to come through this OK.

Marcus Miller
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After RRD, I think Microsoft is the one that really needs to win back consumer confidence. Unlike Sony who is only the victim here.

Victor Reynolds
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what???? So, the free consoles and free month of live wasn't enough? The amount of 360s they have sold since the RROD thing says the opposite of what you suggest...

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Christer Kaitila
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Why on earth is anyone at all surprised when things like this happen?



This is the norm for internet databases: whether at your bank, amazon, facebook, microsoft or sony, your customer details will consistently be stolen from time to time.



Why? No online database is ever unhackable, in the same way that no safe can ever be called uncrackable.



With a little research we could come up with a gigantic list of user databases that have been stolen over the last decade from a myriad of websites. A fiasco like this happens at least once a year and it is always quickly forgotten.



Plain and simple, everything you ever type on any website or web service may eventually get into criminal's hands. That's just the nature of the internet.



The only solution: always fill out web forms with bogus info: 123 sesame street has been my mailing address on nearly every web form I've filled out for a decade, and I'm sure you can guess my phone number (555-1212). I am completely comfortable with my account details on PSN going public. You should be too.

Alan Kleiman
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"We made a mistake here. We picked a fight we couldn't win, and, even with an attack highly likely, we neglected to protect your stuff."



Isn't this a huge assumption, though? Or are you taking it for granted that the people upset at Sony for removing OtherOS were behind this hack? Because there's no evidence of it; in fact, I see much more reason to believe that this was done by the same sort of people who manage all the other personal information leaks. Mainly, organized crime. Assuming that Sony apologize for somehow 'asking' for it seems like transference.



It's not about blaming the victim or not; Sony screwed up by having a system that could be intruded, regardless of how well it was protected it was in the end.

Alistair Hamilton
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+1 to this. The article was doing a great job until that statement was made. And the A and B options for how this will be perceived a year from now do nothing more than promote the fallacy of a black and white world when in fact, there are many shades of gray.



The bottom line with Sony's PR is that people are fickle. They'll switch over to MS and Nintendo until one of them does something equally damaging to their public image. The real question will be if there is a Sony to return to...

Lyon Medina
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Very opinionated article, very good and thanks for the good read.

Rya Jones
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as a past victum of identity theft this is a HUGE issue for me. Free service is not the point. I paid money for items and Sony has a responsiblity to protect customers. I for one don't support unethical companies. No more BP oil and no more PSN. Not worth the aggravation when they did not care enough about my privacy.



I have taken the precaution to cancel my account linked to PSN as they seem to be doing nothing!!



XBOX LIVE GOLD Membership activated today!!! Thanks PSN for not caring, corporate greed

Dave Long
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You do realise that identify theft happens on XBL as well? It's just that it happens in smaller chunks, and MS is far, far less open about it.

Andrey Coutinho
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It's too early to say it's too late for the PlayStation brand. Sony surely needs to make changes in order to regain the trust of customers. But times of crisis can often be times of opportunity, and if things are managed correctly, they can come out on top of the whole situation. I wrote an article on the subject, which served somewhat like a suggestion to Sony on how they could sort out this mess and walk out of this situation even stronger. If anyone cares to take a look at it, I hosted it on Google Docs: https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1FuD8MAqmZoJp2fbbZ2OJbsB49FjpNV4a8oPxCDCqH54&pli=1



If you're interested in the subject, take your time to read it and give me some feedback. Thanks!

jaime kuroiwa
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I don't know how many times I've read articles like this -- just replace "Sony" with any company/government entity you can think of. It's the journalist equivalent of saying "first!"



...and like any company/government entity, the response to a crisis is always the same: admit the mistake (without giving any more information), "replace" the head/s, and hang an "Under New Management" banner over the front door. Easy-peasy.

Mark dogg
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Never thought I would see such article on a top site like gamasutra. I am disappoint.



What has occured is unfortunate. Everything will be fine once they get it working and people start playing games rather than discussing about hackers, security on internet

Maurício Gomes
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I don't get it, why some people is upset with Gamasutra for posting the article? The article is awesome! It talks about how your PR can be ruined and what you need to do to rescue it!

Dave Long
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This is an atrocious article - a real embarrassment for Gamasutra. If you read what most of the unbiased industry professionals on internet security are saying, Sony is apparently doing everything by the book (ie, doing everything they should be saying). While the broad point of the article - that Sony's image could take a hit here - is correct, that's hardly surprising. The details of the article, though, are atrocious.



Sony's response as incompetent? Who's view will I take, a slew of network security professionals or one Marketing Manager who sounds like he got up on the wrong side of bed (and hadn't bothered to fully wake up before writing this piece?)



Response on the blog predictabily pitiful? So what exactly would the author do, noting that:

- initially, it wasn't clear what had gone wrong, and even after they'd determined it was an external intrusion, it takes a while to work out what's happened.

- in the litigation-happy US, what you put out regarding things like this has to be _very_ tight.

- according to network security professionals, Sony has been _far_ more open and timely in their advice than the vast majority of other breaches.



Ie, when you look at the facts in the context of the industry, rather than in the context of internet hysteria, it's far from pitiful and actually very much appropriate.



And how about your 'Straw man' A and B choices - I don't think I could have imagined a more narrow and useless either/or if I'd tried. How about putting up a spectrum of ideas. Most situations aren't as simple as A or B, and if you are going to make it that ridiculously oversimplified, then using sensible options rather than the 'lets sensationalise this' approach makes for far more insightful reading.



The article should also have noted that poorly researched and supported articles that are damn close to being flamebait could have an impact on Gamasutra's. At the end of the day, I expect this kind of article on places like Joystiq or IGN, that are run by a bunch of kids who are pretty ignorant about how things work in the real world (and often fairly ignorant about how things work in the gaming world). But on here, this is an embarrassment to the site. Sure, it's an editorial, but I expect the editorials here to be at least slightly informed.

Mark Harris
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You've put up your own strawman. The article isn't discussing whether or not Sony is responding "by the book", it's about the PR situation. Regardless of how you believe Sony is handling the situation, you may have noticed the amount of negative feelings toward Sony on the interwebs. So, even if they don't have a security issue, they do have a PR issue. The article is addressing that. To what effect, well, that part is subjective.



And, honestly, I don't know what security professionals you're talking to, but I'm not about to give Sony a pat on the back for doing what they should have been doing since before PSN went live. I mean really, even without knowing anything else, you can tell a lot just from them storing personal data in plain text, sans any type of encryption whatsoever. It screams negligence. Any security "professional" that gives them a pass on that shouldn't be allowed to call himself such.

Mark dogg
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Such article is fine in other sites, blogs or even in some forums, youtube videos and so on ...



Obviously what has happened is unfortunate for Sony and its customers. I think people should wait and lot of analysis should be done. Media will/has jumped into it and take advantage of this situation with hyperbole articles.

Mark Harris
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I'm seeing a lot of names I've never seen before posting in all of the articles relating to this Sony data breach. I suppose this is the silver lining, adding to the rolls here at Gama.

Dave Long
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I've posted before, but only bother post on articles that are clearly misleading and/or poor. I In regard to your reply to my above comment (so I don't go double-posting), I agree the article is about PR, but its argument lacks a coherence and the facts on which it is based are only facts by dint of them achieving critical mass via internet hysteria, rather than a reflection on what's going on in the real world.



So - other than the Straw Man issue (which is a real issue with this article - what could have been an enlightening and deep discussion of the issues turns into a banal dichotomisation of something that's far more complex - and this is an issue with the PR argument), how about:



"Sony has always behaved like a dictator, benevolently dispensing information to favored sycophants according to its own desires.. "



combined with:



"It is no coincidence that JetBlue spends a lot of time and effort on its social media outreach, using its blogs as a fun way to connect with people, instead of merely a dreary corporate mouthpiece and bucket for PR assets, which is the norm in the game industry. "



What kind of rubbish is this? I'm not sure if the author has ever been on the SCEE or SCEA blog (I'm limited to English language blogs, so can't speak for the others), but on these blogs you get far more than Sony-only announcements, with substantial amount of content from games developers and publishers, as well as competitions from the fans. Further, all of the blog posts have comments sections, where it's quite common for questions from the great unwashed to be answered directly by people in the appropriate dev teams.



This is nothing about security - this is a failure in the author's detail when it comes to talking PR.



And then there's:



"It needs to be loved. This is why the duff notes coming out of Foster City are so excruciating. "



And we get one short sentence and no acknowledgement of responses in the blog Q&A comments, and (and this is a shocking omission) where's the example of how other companies have handled a hacking differently or better? But no, the author would rather spend words and attention on trite references to Dominos Pizza, which he himself acknowledges are a completely different product and pretty useless to look at in this case.



Whether you're talking the tech details, or the marketing, or the basic logical structure of the argument, this article is poor. This is nothing against the author, they may have been having a bad day, or been busy and not giving this their full attention, or this may not be their area of expertise (it's one thing to market a product, it's quite another thing to analyse marketing from an outside perspective). And this isn't standard for Gamasutra - normally your articles are of good quality (so you won't see me posting often - I'll only post when I think something needs adding/being highlighted, such as in this case).


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