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Friday, May 13, 2011

Sony, Running Out Of Feet, Shoots Itself In Another Appendage

It only does everything.
Just when you think Sony's had enough time to figure out how to talk to people about the PSN/SOE hack attack, they issue another public statement and you think "Have these guys learned nothing?" This time, Sony is attempting to deal with developers. You know, those companies that provide the games that are sold on PSN... those companies who have seen their PSN revenue drop to zero for the last three weeks, with no end in sight.

Apparently there's been no official communication from Sony to developers regarding the outage until a couple of days, ago, when VP of Publisher Relations Rob Dyer sent out this email. It's worth reading as an example of how not to communicate in a crisis. Let me summarize the contents of the letter for you: "We had a big break-in and customer data was compromised. We deeply regret that this occurred. We are sure it won't happen again, and thanks for your support. We'll keep you updated."

Let's start with the fact that this email was sent out, not on day two or three of the outage, but after more than three weeks of outage. Good communication? That's an insult. Sure, I bet all the developers were in communication with their account executives at Sony about the issue, and were getting information. But that's back-channel stuff, not Official Word. Not something you can take to your investors or shareholders to explain what happened to your revenue numbers this month. Or when that might stop.

As to the content, Sony didn't tell developers anything they didn't already know about the break-in or the outage. Sony didn't even really apologize; they just "deeply regret that this incident has occurred." Nice use of the passive voice there, Sony, to avoid taking any responsibility. Maybe the lawyers wanted them to avoid any language that might open them up to a lawsuit. I don't know whether that will work, but certainly it's not helping make anyone affected feel any better.

Finally, you'll note the important thing that's missing from this letter: Any mention of recompense to the developers for the lost revenue. Or, indeed, any mention of revenue, even obliquely. If you have lost thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or maybe even millions of dollars because of lost sales, you might be a trifle peeved that Sony isn't mentioning that fact.

Microsoft, if they haven't already done so, should be communicating with all the PSN developers and saying something like this: "Hey, put your games on Xbox Live and we'll guarantee we don't have an outage. In fact, we'll back that up by promising to pay you the average daily sales you normally get if any outage ever does occur." Microsoft could probably even get an insurance policy to cover those costs for them.

Sony should, in fact, be telling their developers that they'll be recompensed for their lost revenue. Hell, they should have told them that on Day 1 of the outage. Any developer that looks at creating a PS3 exclusive title for download will doubtless conclude that's just stupid, because then you might lose a month of revenue with no warning. At least if your title is on Xbox Live as well as PSN, you'll only lose part of the revenue. With this logic, PSN will not be seeing exclusive titles... which loses an advantage to Microsoft. Bad play, Sony.

Sony still gives the impression of floundering, after three weeks of crisis. It's going to be a very difficult E3 for them; I hope they get their act together soon. But hope is fading after three weeks... this incident is going to have long-term damage to the Sony brand, I fear.

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