At this point in our journey, we've reached 2011 - one of the most memorable years in the PlayStation 3's life, though not for entirely the right reasons. To understand the problem, though, we'll need to rewind back a few months...
Part 4 - A Bump in the Road
In March, 2010, Sony removed support for third-party Operating Systems such as Linux on the PlayStation 3 via Official Firmware Update 3.21. The 'OtherOS' feature, which had been available since launch, was removed, according to Sony, because of ongoing security concerns (though later some would go on to claim it was for financial reasons, and had nothing to do with security). For 99% of PS3 owners, the news of the feature's removal passed by without so much as a murmur, but for a tiny minority, the abandonment of OtherOS was a breach of their consumer rights, and so they decided to kick up a fuss.
In January, 2011, hacker George "Geohot" Hotz successfully jailbroke the PS3 (OFW 3.15) using the very exploit that Sony had attempted to rectify back in 2010, and published instructions for others to follow, as well as the PS3's 'root key' (essentially the fail-safe in the PS3 that authorizes any program attempting to run on it as either legitimate or illegitimate - in other words, it's what stops someone from being able to play pirated games, or run a 3rd-party OS, on the console) on YouTube and on his personal website. A few days later, Sony sued Hotz for distributing jailbreak software to the public, claiming that he was supporting piracy by facilitating the use of pirated software on jailbroken consoles.
In April, 'hacktivist' group Anonymous began 'Operation Sony' - a series of Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks - against the company in an effort to force Sony to leave Hotz alone (and to cease protecting their intellectual property). Several websites were temporarily forced to close as a result. Shortly afterwards, Sony settled their case with Hotz, and he agreed to take down his website and the offending information that he had released.
An approximate recreation of the data intrusion
On April 13, 2011, Anonymous warned Sony to prepare for an incoming attack via an online video, and on April 16 and 17 hackers broke into the PlayStation Network and Sony Online Entertainment, making off with 77 million PSN users', and 25 million SOE users', personal account information, as well as the credit and debit card information of some 23,400 SOE Europe users. On April 19, Sony detected the breach in the PlayStation Network and began an investigation, but failed to immediately notify the public for reasons that defy comprehension.
On April 20, 2011, Sony shut down the PlayStation Network, claiming that it was suffering from "technical issues." In response to growing suspicion and concerns from the public and press, Anonymous released a video on April 22 denying responsibility for the hack.
April 26, 2011, a full week after the hack, Sony finally admitted that the enormous security breach, and called for FBI assistance in recovering the stolen data, tracking down the perpetrators, and closing the glaring gap in their security.
On May 1st, 2011, Sony Executives publically apologised for the data breach and for the outage. At the same time, Sony and investigators discovered the Sony Online Entertainment breach, and quickly shut down the SOE servers, and the next day made details of the breach known to the public.
Sony Execs take responsibility for the data breach
Before a Congressional hearing held on May 4, 2011, Sony Chairman Kazuo 'Kaz' Hirai told Congress that investigators had discovered a file within the PSN named "Anonymous," bearing their motto: "We are Legion." While not explicitly stating that Anonymous were responsible, Sony claimed that the breach was made easier by the group's earlier efforts. The next day, Anonymous denied involvement in the credit card theft, saying that they were "trying to fight criminal activities by corporations and governments, not steal credit cards."
On May 5, 2011, Sony released a statement saying that they were in the final stages of testing their new network, and that the PSN would be returning in the coming days. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and the PSN remained shuttered until May 14, 2011, when Sony finally released OFW update 3.61 which patched the security breach, and prompted users to change their passwords after signing in.
The great PlayStation Network outage of 2011 was over, but it had far-reaching ramifications for the industry, for Sony, and for PlayStation gamers. The fact that so many accounts had been violated was enough of a reason for many to abandon or avoid the platform, but the issue was compounded by Sony's frankly inexcusable mishandling of the whole situation.
Perhaps the biggest casualty of the outage, however, was Zipper Interactive, one of Sony's fantastic first-party developers and the guys responsible for the much-loved SOCOM series, who launched their new game SOCOM 4 on April 19, 2011. With online play being the primary selling point of SOCOM 4, the network outage absolutely killed the game's launch, and it ended up selling 500,000 units less than the previous game (which likely contributed to the studio's demise). SOCOM 4 wasn't the only game affected, though. Housemarque's fantastic 2D platformer Outland had its release delayed for almost two months, while countless other games available only on the PSN were unpurchaseable, putting a serious dent in the revenue of many small-time developers.
It didn't make up for what happened, but the Welcome Back program was a step in the right direction
In an effort to win back disillusioned gamers, on May 1, 2011, Sony unveiled their 'Welcome Back' program, which offered up to two free PS3 games and two free PSP games from a list of half-a-dozen or so to gamers who had PSN accounts from before the hack, as well as either a 60 day subscription extension or 30 day trial for PlayStation Plus, and a 12 month subscription to an online security service.
Defying many people's predictions, Sony actually recovered exceptionally well. Within the first week, they reported that 94% of gamers had returned to PSN and by the summer of 2011 that number increased 100%. What's even more impressive is that within 6 months of the incident some 3 million new accounts were created.
Sony would go on to spend the next year repairing the damage caused, and their relationship with gamers and the industry. Fortunately, most only needed one reason to come back: great games. And in that department, the PlayStation 3 delivered. Much like the 2010-11 season, the 2011-12 season was chock-full of great games, both multi-platform and PlayStation exclusive, of which the five games below are certainly the standouts. They are:
Originally Posted by Nagflar
Originally Posted by thedirtyburger
Originally Posted by Faust
Originally Posted by Nagflar
Originally Posted by Faust
Editor in Chief and Lead Writer - Faust
Staff Writers - Nagflar, Rubicant81, and thedirtyburger
Visual Design - Qurb (Main Banner and Concept)
Voters - Breakpoint, Broken, DaveyHasselhoff, Faust, Gyrocop, Kerwan_Ratchet, Marccap, Nagflar, Rubicant81, Schism, thedirtyburger, and U.M.A._Mailman19
Thanks to IGN for their excellent video on the PSN Outage