Sony falls short with system update to PS3
Following Sony’s release of the PlayStation 3 in 2006, the entire gaming scene underwent a massive overhaul. The PS3’s Blu-ray capability allowed for video game discs to store an unprecedented amount of content, and it was set to become to mainstream format of not only high-definition gaming, but movies as well.
As is done with most devices, Sony has continuously released system updates that make revisions to the PS3’s operating system and firmware, adding features such as Life with PlayStation.
Sony’s most recent update, firmware version 3.21, seems to take a step backward, however, and is causing unrest in the PlayStation community. The update removes the option in older models to install an alternative operating system such as Linux, which enables the PS3 to perform tasks such as word-processing and viewing Web browser-based video.
Little consideration has been given to those who would like to retain this feature. If owners choose not to install the firmware, they lose access to the PlayStation Network and will be unable to download any new content to their units. This includes subscription-based services, in addition to demos and game add-ons.
Even worse, games that are multiplayer-only are effectively rendered useless without network access, and users will lack the ability to update their game despite developer updates to fix glitches and expand support.
Games released in the future that require this firmware upgrade will also be rendered useless unless the user obeys.
Amazon.com issued a partial refund to a European PS3 owner after he claimed the feature on his unit had been removed. Consumer law in the U.S. doesn’t cover as wide a scope as it does in Europe, but a possible class-action lawsuit may force Sony to reinstate the capability.
The issue isn’t that users are losing the ability to install Linux on their machines, but whether a company can remove a feature after purchase. Owners must agree to what is called an “End User License Agreement” upon purchase, which explicitly states that revisions to the firmware are expected; if the agreement also says that Sony can engage in some nefarious bait-and-switch scheme, though, the agreement can be challenged in court.
When a person previously purchased a PS3, they had the ability to install an alternate operating system on their consoles. Removing a built-in system feature after the point of sale is unacceptable — especially when such a feature doesn’t adversely affect system performance.
Sony sold its customers a product with a specific set of functions. With this update, however, it is replacing that product with a different one lacking the same functionality.
Patrick Levy is a communication freshman and may be reached at [email protected]