Why the PSN hacking doesn’t reflect as badly on Sony as you think.

The security breach that allowed loose-knit hacker group Anonymous to access the details of around 100m PSN accounts is undoubtedly a blemish on Sony’s reputation. Even rabid fanboys couldn’t seriously argue that it won’t hurt Sony in any way. But whatever personal information was obtained by the online security breach can’t be blamed entirely on Sony, and here’s why.

Many of you may recognise this man. His name is Gary McKinnon, an autistic 45 year old Systems Administrator from Glasgow. He was responsible for hacking into 97 different computers belonging to the United States military and NASA in an attempt to uncover evidence of extra-terrestrial technology being used by the government, causing an on-going extradition battle.

The US has accused him of hacking into their computers and deleting important files, resulting in the shutting down of 2,000 of their computers for a 24 hour period as well as copying restricted documents onto his home computer, all of which is alleged to have cost the US government $700,000. McKinnon denies causing any damage but freely admits to breaking into government computers.

Now you may be wondering what any of this has to do with Sony’s current predicament. Well, it’s simple. It stands to reason that information stored on the US military and NASA computers is going to be considerably more valuable and important than any data stored on the Playstation Network, and thus would be protected a lot better than the bank details of 100m gamers. The point I’m trying to make is that even if Sony had spent several million more to make their secure data even more secure, there’s always going to be someone that could eventually hack into this data if they were determined enough.

If a mentally challenged Scotsman can shut down US military computers for 24 hours from his Glaswegian home, then we shouldn’t be surprised that a group of hackers can break into a video gaming network. Xbox Live has been hacked before; it could easily be hacked again if someone wanted it enough. As could the Steam servers. Try to get some perspective before accusing Sony of a massive failure on their part. Sure, they’ve admitted the PSN had security flaws. But even if these had been fixed it probably wouldn’t be enough to stop a hacker group as determined and relentless as Anonymous.

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Playstation Store Prices are Extortionate

With the rapid increase in broadband speeds and its increasing availability over the years, the use of online content delivery seems like a natural progression.  Both Sony’s Playstation Store and Microsoft’s Xbox Live Marketplace offer this, albeit a version limited in the content you can download, with few full retail games available to download.

Both downloading and purchasing from retailers each have their own advantages and disadvantages and gamers will have polarised opinions about the future of purchasing video games but judging by the current state of the Playstation Store (although the same applies to the Xbox  Marketplace) retailers have one key advantage at this moment in time: price.

At present there is a shocking disparity between the prices for games offered on the Playstation Store and on Amazon.co.uk.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Prices were correct at the time of writing but will probably change in a couple of weeks, making this article redundant.

Sony has recently released the excellent Assassin’s Creed onto the store. It’s odd that they’ve only just got round to releasing a two year old game but the price tag of £23.00 is even odder, especially considering the price of the game on Amazon.co.uk is only £9.99

The game’s sequel Assassin’s Creed II costs the same as its predecessor meaning that you can buy the first two games from Amazon.co.uk cheaper than you can buying just the one from the Playstation Store.

Then there’s the original Call of Duty. The PC version was released in 2003 and is currently selling on Amazon.co.uk with the United Offensive expansion pack for just £4.75. It’s recently been ported to the PSN  (minus the expansion pack) and released for £11.99. That’s right, £11.99 for a port of a 7 year old game.

Moving on to SOCOM: CONFRONTATION, you can buy it on the Playstation Store for £19.99 or you can pay half that on Amazon.co.uk, or better yet pay just £5 more than the Store price and get a free wireless headset with it.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2 goes for £23.99 courtesy of Sony. Or if you’d rather pay a little less for a game more than two and a half years old just head over to our old friends at Amazon.co.uk to pick it up for a tenner.

There’s plenty more examples for you to find yourself and the same will no doubt apply to the Playstation Store in other countries and with Sony continually expanding the store content such extortionate pricing seems set to continue.

According to Forbes, 20% of the cost of purchasing a game goes to the retailer. For a full price £40 game this would be around £8 and because if this it stands to reason that by Sony selling a game directly to the customer through the Playstation Store they’re essentially cutting out the middleman meaning that they should be able to sell the games for a cheaper price than you’d find at a retail outlet.

If paying for downloading games is to take off with the current and future iterations of the Playstation then Sony needs to offer gamers some incentive to fill their hard drive with software with what is essentially ‘renting for life’ a copy of a game.