Friday, July 4, 2008

Sony Pulls Update Following PS3 Firmware Fiasco

Sony's 2.40 firmware update for the PlayStation 3 video game console ran into problems less than an hour after the company made it available for download Wednesday. Owners began reporting problems as a result of the download on the PS3 Forum, leading Sony to pull the update from availability.

"A limited number of PS3 users have reported that the XMB (XrossMediaBar) is not displayed after updating to the PS3 system software ver. 2.40. We have temporarily taken the 2.40 update offline and are currently conducting tests to determine the cause of this problem. We will announce through our Web site as soon as we are ready to resume the system software update,"

said Al de Leon, a Sony spokesperson.

The firmware flop has "embarrassed Sony," according to Michael Gartenberg, a JupiterResearch analyst.

"To release an update like that and then have to pull it because it was turning people's PS3s into PS paperweights is an embarrassment. This is a pretty big black eye for them. You can be sure before this update gets released again into the wild Sony's going to really go over it with a very fine-toothed comb to make sure this circumstance doesn't happen again,"

he told TechNewsWorld.

Black Eye

Gamers have reported a variety of maladies related to the firmware upgrade, Chris Roper, editor-in-chief at, PlayStation Team, told TechNewsWorld.

"Some people weren't able to install the update -- their system would just reset at some point without having applied the patch. Others have had worse issues, where their system would no longer even boot. It seems that it has something to do with a hard drive corruption issue, as swapping out for a fresh hard drive then allows it to boot,"

he said.

After downloading and installing the update and then trying to play a game, claimed forum poster ASickness, the PS3 displayed nothing but a blank screen.

"I get a black screen forever ... I can't even get demos to start ... I got my PS3 on Launch day ... so my warranty is out now ... any advice?"

ASickness wrote in a post.

Damage Control

"[Sony] did respond quickly, and the good news for them is that they acted responsibly and pulled the update until they could figure out what was going on. The problem is that ... firmware upgrades can be tricky because you're basically reflashing the device, and all you need is a byte to go in the wrong place and suddenly things stop working,"

Gartenberg explained.

However, he continued, it is incumbent upon vendors to ensure that this type of situation does not happen when they release firmware upgrades. That is especially true for Sony as it tries to push the PS3 as an entertainment device beyond gaming.

"It's pretty unacceptable, about as unacceptable as you can get. In the course of any type of firmware upgrade or operating system upgrade, you're going to have a certain number of users who may experience problems. The challenge for Sony -- and every vendor in this day and age -- is that we live in the age of the Internet. So all of a sudden when things go wrong, they are not isolated problems. Everyone knows about them, and the perception may be worse than reality, and what matters is the perception,"

Gartenberg pointed out.

In the Dark

While Sony responded quickly, removing the software from its servers less than 24 hours after releasing the update and learning of potential issues, the company has dropped the information ball since then, Roper said.

"It pulled the update within a reasonable amount of time, but as far as what we've seen, there has been no explanation of what the problems are or how to fix them, or when a patched update would be back online,"

he noted.

"Just this past Friday, Sony wouldn't tell us the release date for the update since they were still trying to figure out when it would be done. Coupled with these issues, it seems like it was rushed out the door without proper testing,"

Roper continued.

As for Sony's ultimate response to gamers whose systems have indeed become paperweights, Roper said Sony should fix the machines free of charge. In doing that, the company would be taking a page out of archrival Microsoft , which spent billions of dollars to repair its gaming platform when users experienced issues following the release of the Xbox 360 .

"Given that this is Sony's fault and not the end users', Sony needs to help people out and fix their systems. Hopefully that wouldn't require shipping the entire system back, but if need be, that's what really needs to happen,"

Roper advised.