I’ve known for a long time that you can’t trust technology – I learnt that the hard way. In the summer of 2003, I lost my original Jak and Daxter: the Precursor Legacy gamesave to corruption. I prevented myself from earning 100% completion on a TimeSplitters 2 save by using a cheat disc. I’ve watched my cousin leave Metal Gear Solid running all day and night because he didn’t have a Memory Card to save his progress. Overwriting data has caused heated disputes between my brother and I. And of the six to eight home computers my family has been through over the years we’ve lost countless PC saves and profiles.
Having experienced all this, I’ve been employing a number of backup rituals over the years, which at my most painstaking has had me taking data from five different sources, hard copying them to CDs and DVDs, and keeping regular copies on a memory stick and my laptop HDD.
But believe me none of this, none, could have prepared me for the unfortunate saga of system failures that was to befall me, and many others, this year.
It happened on March 12. My brother text me to say our 60GB PS3, bought in June 2007, a 5kg beast of future tech that I assumed would sooner sprout wings than fail us before its time, was dead… Seems it did give up the ghost, leaving us with a PlayStation-shaped hole in our lives and choice between paying out for one of its siblings or… heck, there was never any option.
Fast forward to the summer when I called PlayStation Support. My brother tells me he’d been watching a DVD at the time and that the PS3 crashed, displaying the yellow signal light, rebooted, then crashed completely. According to the advisor at the other end of the phone line, this yellow light symbolises an unspecific system failure. We wished to do a like-for-like exchange, which they charged a crippling £130 for. Begrudgingly, we agreed to pay.
When the new system arrived in July, I found it was operating abnormally two minutes after it was set up. The internal fan was revving at an alarmingly loud rate – you could hear it all the way from downstairs. So I immediate called customer support to explain my discomfort. After booting the PlayStation up so the man on the other end could hear how loud it was too, they agreed to send a replacement.
The third time had to be the charm. It arrived in August and this time there were no noticeable mechanical issues, so I set about rebuilding our data library. Though wrapped in plastic, all the replacement consoles we received have been pre-loaded with nearly the latest firmware. Fortunately my cautious routines pay off in situations such as this. I was able to restore all but a handful of our PS3 gamesaves, thanks to them being ‘Copy Prohibited’. Nevertheless, we lose valuable progress and irretrievable data for Killzone 2, Street Fighter IV and Assassin’s Creed II – this ‘protected saves’ nonsense really has to stop.
For the next three months everything appeared to be fine. Then, on November 20, it happened again. If the first failure was suitably ‘unspecified’, this one was quite plain, even to the non-technical folks. I was testing Sims 3 at the time when the system just froze. I thought it was a disc error but the severity of the situation soon dawned on me when that hateful yellow signal emitted from the power indicator. I reset the system, it booted up just as normal, everything seemed to be OK… accept, the disc drive was suddenly incapable of reading discs of any kind – precisely the same error that my friend Dee encountered when his launch PS3 broke last summer.
Realising that yet another system had failed, and worst still that this one was out of the courtesy warranty, I almost wanted to let out a wolf cry of anger and sorrow. Instead, I took Lao Tzu’s advice that ‘the world is ruled by letting things take their course’ and did the only thing I could do – backup any data, wipe the system and wait to see what Sony would say in the morning.
The next day I explained that we’d had this replacement console for only three months and to my relief the PlayStation Support gentlemen was understanding and arranged for a fourth replacement to be sent that week at no additional cost. That system is up and run now and I pray it will find the strength to last at least until 2015. The whole fiasco has been a major hassle, especially since I’ve had to call the PlayStation Store team to reset our SingStar downloads and any other data which is locked to the system each time one of them has failed.
If you’re reading this and you still have a working launch PS3 then I must assume you’re in a very fortunate minority. In the past two years lots of people I know with launch PS3s have had their systems die on them, including uni friends and two of my Platform contributors. And, of the occasions for things to go wrong, madtyger told me that her 60GB launch PS3 copped it on her birthday.
Due to this pattern of system failures, I believe there’s a fundamental flaw with these PS3 models. If I had the time, and the connections, it’s something I’d like to investigate for myself. At the very least, I’d like a knowledgeable industry insider, like Dean Takahashi (Opening the Xbox, Xbox 360 Uncloaked), to take a crack at it.
My one saving grace in the past year has ironically been the 120GB PS3 Slim which I invested in so both my brother and I would have access to PS3 consoles while I’m away from home. Still, I’m sure we’d all prefer if the original PS3 models just worked like Sony promised they would, as features like backward compatibility and installing other operating systems have been phased out for the new versions.
The reality is the first iterations of current generations systems – Xbox 360, PS3 and PSP – seem to be horribly unreliable. Some of my consoles from the 1990s still work, including my Game Boy Pocket (incidentally, Nintendo appear to have two very sturdy devices in the Wii and DS). Though, as Ben Parfitt points out, they can do more, hence there’s a lot more that can go wrong with the new boxes. So, no matter what the promise, it turns out you still can’t trust technology.