layStation 3 owners have had a rough couple of days - what began as a hiccup or two with auto sign in attempts to the PlayStation Network has ballooned into outright login failures and downtime for Sony’s “free-to-play” online portal. Four or five years ago, this would have merely meant that gamers couldn’t enjoy match-made games — a minor inconvenience. Today, with the modern console’s array of apps and “always on” net connectivity, an inability to login can result in the disabling of all but the most basic of console functionality. As it stands, no PSN means no Hulu, no Netflix, and no store purchases — in short, no access to anything that requires an authentication process.
The problem is that Sony's PSN really isn't free anymore.Sony hasn’t been particularly forthcoming with a solution despite a bevy of posts on their PlayStation user forums. Type in ‘error 80710092’ and you’ll be treated to threads whose moderators recommend little more than “waiting” or “checking router settings.” Part of me wouldn’t expect anything else — the PlayStation Network is marketed as a free service, after all. But the problem is, it isn’t a free service. I pay $50 a year for PlayStation Plus (Sony’s foray into premium content). I pay $18 a month for a Netflix subscription, for which I use my PS3 as a streaming solution. The same holds true for Hulu Plus — that’s $7 more each month. Add all this up and you start to realize that online access on the PS3 isn’t remotely free. In fact, I’m more invested in and dependent upon it for media consumption than I am on Xbox Live (where I spend most of my gaming hours).
While I’m confident that Sony’s engineers are hard at work on a solution, perhaps the time has come for the company to start treating their network portal and its users with the same respect that Microsoft treats subscribers to Xbox Live. Keep us informed, be forthcoming, and stop treating PSN like a hobby. For a large portion of your users, it isn’t just about games anymore — the PlayStation Network is our gateway to digital media consumption. The only positive I can find in all of this: I’m reading more.