That's according to an opinion piece crafted by Gamasutra's Colin Campbell. Does it sound familiar? It sure as hell does to me. In fact listening to podcasts and reading editorials this week has made me question whether I took a ride in a tripped out DeLorean against my will: it's 2007 all over again.
Before I dare tread any further with this piece, perhaps I should justify: I'm really irritated that the PSN got hacked. Dare I feel otherwise for fear of being mocked as a mindless sycophant. "The PlayStation brand is in gentle decline," writes Campbell. Is it really, or is this just hyperbolic guff in order to paper over an agenda that's been bubbling ever since Sony had the "misguided arrogance" to release a video game system at an extortionate price-point? The media's sense of self-entitlement was strong then, and it remains an unwritten crux now.
I've never understood the disdain thrown at Sony's treatment of the PlayStation 3's launch. Evidently, someone needed to put a gag on Jack Tretton when he was desperately trampling all over the competition or making crude statements about second jobs. But I'll probably never get to the bottom of the five-hundred-and-ninety-nine dollars backlash that ultimately kicked off a torrid period for PlayStation's perception in the media. It's too expensive? Don't buy it.
I mention it because it felt like we were moving on. The length Sony's gone to recover positivity in the media always seemed disproportionate to me, but two game of the year winning releases (LittleBigPlanet, Uncharted 2) and a number of high-profile titles just about did the trick. The days of snarky comments passed and the media was accepting again.
But this week we're right back to square one. The media's portrayal of Sony has been hyperbolic and unfair during the fallout from the PlayStation Network's security breach. What irks me more is that so few publications are attempting to balance the blame — it takes two to tango.
I'm not trying to downplay the responsibility of Sony to protect our data; clearly the platform holder has plenty to prove in order to reassure customers going forwards. But this ideal that Sony's response to the data breach should have been harder, better, faster, stronger smacks of the same kind of entitlement we experienced at the start of the generation. Admittedly, that sense of entitlement is better placed when there is private information at stake.
But Campbell's attempts to paint Sony from such a negative angle throb with the same harshness and reactionary doom mongering that's become second nature to PlayStation fans. Campbell attempts to correlate his perception of Sony's corporate image to the decline of a gaming hallmark, but he ponders on the negatives with limited regard for the positives. Sony's response to the PlayStation Network situation has been damned for not being immediate, but how realistic is that expectation? Indeed, people seem to keen to ruminate on the prospects of "should have" without regarding the consequences. I can only contemplate the mass hysteria had Sony come out last week boldly claiming, "Our network has been subject to an external intrusion and we've enlisted the support of a third-party security specialist in order to determine the span of the breach. To be honest, we don't really know what's happened. But don't worry — yet."
Days after statements from both Sony and major banking institutions concluded "no evidence" of any credit card theft, we're still seeing major publications loosely attributing fraudulent charges to the PlayStation Network's breach of security. Indeed, follow the gaming press and you'll be convinced there's no other way of explaining such a phenomena. Those stories tend to lose me with the "coincidental" disclaimer. And yet, had Sony announced the situation earlier and fulfilled the desires of the media's demands, I am utterly convinced we would still be discussing the "decline of PlayStation brand" and the company's abhorrent PR. Perhaps more so.
Campbell's discussion on Gamasutra highlights a bigger problem than Sony's perceived arrogance. It flags a discretion between Sony's corporate mentality and the media. Campbell concludes that the PlayStation brand lacks empathy, but his examples counter the arguments he makes. Illustrating his point, Campbell completely ignores hallmarks such as the PlayStation Blog, which have given Sony a direct line of communication with their customers. Painting such an institution as "a dreary corporate mouthpiece and bucket for PR assets" seems entirely at odds with what the PlayStation Blog actually achieves. We've undeniably seen improvements in the quality of PlayStation Plus content as a direct result of the Blog, moreover European consumers have been offered an insight into the content publishing process. Why? Because lots of people wanted to know why PSone Classics took so long to release in the region. Sony's response not only informed consumers, but also explained what the company intended to do to improve the situation. It doesn't sound like a "company in hiding" to me. It sounds like the kind of transparency people crave.
Campbell's ignoring the good that Sony's achieved with the PlayStation Blog because he feels that the platform holder hasn't used the tool to its full potential this past week, and that's fair enough. But Campbell's proposed alternative is infinitely more ludicrous. To suggest a company should be publicly acknowledging that it, "picked a fight [with hackers that it] couldn't win," not only assumes that the PlayStation Network data breach correlates with the GeoHot escapade, but also suggests that Sony should be burying its head in the sand — something Campbell contradicts later in the piece. Should the PSN data breach have anything to do with Anonymous and its collection of cronies, Campbell assumes that Sony should have originally let the group directly attack consumers and publishers by distributing their hacks online. Sony's interest in taking GeoHot to court undoubtedly benefited the platform holder, but it was also necessary in protecting consumers and developers, both of which stand to lose from rampant hacking and piracy on the PlayStation 3.
It's a trying argument that rubs me the wrong way. It assumes hackers have no responsibility to bear for the current PlayStation Network climate, but that's just wrong. I can lock my windows and doors but it won't stop a burglar from pulling out a crowbar and stealing my possessions. The assumption is that Sony are incompetent, but in reality your data will never be secure while hackers maintain a hold over the companies responsible for protecting it.
A few commenters in the Gamasutra story likened the situation to Microsoft's very own PR blunder, the "red ring of death". A number of users suggested that Microsoft's handling of the debacle — extended warranties and free repairs — rendered the situation incomparable. But that assumes Microsoft responded immediately, which they didn't. Mere days have passed since the announcement of the PlayStation Network data breach and the media is already expecting miracles. They're assuming the brand is in decline before they've given Sony ample opportunity to respond and make good on their errors. In short: the media is clambering for fallacies in order to support a pre-conceived notion.
Haven't you heard, the PlayStation brand is in decline. Again.
Its rumoured that Twiggy has spent the past several months touring with avant-garde dance troupe Cirque Du Soleil. The anonymous PushSquare columnist is still on the run from the British monarchy on account of treason. Twiggy was last sighted eating an Asda branded ham and cheese sandwich in Grimsby.