It’s no secret that PlayStation Network is an unreliable and insecure mess. Whilst companies like Microsoft have had their fair share of incidents with Xbox Live, PSN historically has had an extremely checkered past. Stolen data such as account passwords, credit cards, and periodic login blips seem to be business as usual. Denial of service attacks in August and December 2014 by the hacker group Lizard Squad, the later of which took it down for 5 days, resulting in Sony having to rebuild their servers just to get performance back. There’s a sense of consternation brewing in the back of my mind for the future of console gaming
Before going into a diatribe about how we’re all doomed to disaster because Sony can’t get their act together, I acknowledge that there’s no such thing as perfect uptime.
History tells us…
The appalling track record of PSN is a clear indication that we have a long way to go towards acceptable reliability and security. There is a lot that can and should be done to fortify this network. Companies like CloudFlare exist to solve the kind of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks encountered by PSN. They serve as a reverse proxy between your infrastructure and the exposed parts of your network that we as consumers access. The frustrating thing about DDoS is that it doesn’t matter how awesome your hardware is, a sudden massive burst in traffic can take you down. The question for Sony is why aren’t they using something like CloudFlare?
Another repeat of 2011’s leak of 77 million accounts would be disastrous and a heavy blow to Sony’s already weakened reputation at delivering highly available services. Security issues aside, the tight integration of services with PlayStation consoles concerns me greatly. As experienced by yours truly and thousands of other gamers, when PSN is taken offline, many games become impossible to play because of their reliance on the network.
There are plenty of things to love about modern console gaming: Automatically preloading games, patch downloads while my PS4, social media integration, and third party apps–all wonderful things. When purchasing a product, it’s not too much to ask to be able to use it immediately. I plan evenings to allocate time for entertainment, so when faced with an inability to play, it becomes frustrating. An unfortunate reality we face today is that when technology fails, it fails miserably. It’s not as if I have no right to complain either as I happily pay $50/year for a PSN+ membership. (heck, I’d fork over $100 if it meant better uptime).
Growing up in the 80s, I remember when the Nintendo Entertainment System first landed on our shores here in Canada–it was a glorious moment. Playing a game was an exceedingly challenging procedure: you went to the store, bought a game, removed it from its packaging, and inserted the cartridge into the slot. Booting up your console took less than 15 seconds and you were then (gasp) playing the game! Shocker, right? Look, I’m not suggesting we should go back to how things were 30 years ago, because clearly that’s the wrong direction, but there has to be a better way than what we currently have. Technology has grown at an incredible rate and it seems reliability has not kept pace with that growth. The transition from cartridges to optical media and then digital downloads has introduced more moving parts across the hardware and software spectrum. More moving parts translates to higher failure rates if measures aren’t taken to ensure continuous and dependable operation.
I know Sony has lots of talented and hard working people in their organization. I remain cautiously optimistic that they will make the necessary decisions to fix their infrastructure, if not out of free will then by force as they continue to be backed into a corner by maladjusted individuals. Consider this: more and more games are releasing as digital only, many of which are 50GB or larger to download. The number of people getting high bandwidth Internet in their homes grows every day. There’s less of a reason to have an optical drive in our consoles now more so than ever. There’s also the inevitable day when consoles will no longer ship with optical drives. If we want to continue down the trodden path of digital only content in a constantly connected world, it’s imperative we mend the networks of today that scarcely hold together by a thread.