I’m a strong advocate for digital purchases, and I really don’t have objections about DRM: I’m not trying to cheat anyone, and I understand I need to authenticate devices. I’ll even accept “always online” DRM as long as it actually works (I’m talking to you, SimCity). I think borrowing games is only marginally better than pirating, and I would never buy used games unless they were out of print. It irks me when a digital version of a game can’t be bought cheaper than a physical copy, but I do it anyway because discs can be scratched or stolen. I believe in the digital download revolution: buying a game online is simply more convenient and I know that no matter what happens, I’ll always be able to access the content – or so I thought.
Last week, I got locked out of my PlayStation Network account for 6 months. My year subscription to PlayStation Plus, and the free games contained within, is now worthless, as are all the other online purchases in my account.
My story begins sometime around the American launch of the PlayStation 4. I hadn’t turned my PlayStation on for about a week having been bowled over in work – I needed a break. I’d bought the new Call of Duty, and while it isn’t exactly the best sequel ever, it’s what I turn to for a bit of R&R. Don’t judge me!
Only, it wouldn’t launch. The error message was that the content wasn’t authorized for this device.
I double checked that I was in fact signed in, and followed instructions to activate the console from My Account. I was greeted by an ominous error that 2 consoles were already activated – I would need to deactivate those first.
I could de-activate with physical access to these other consoles; which I don’t have of course, because I only own one PS3 and that was the one I was trying to authorize.
Now it was getting a little disturbing. I rationalized though: I owned a PlayStation or two before in Japan, perhaps with the launch of the PS4 there were some new restrictions in place and maybe, just maybe, those were still active and this had conspired to take me over some limit. Fair enough – I checked online, and there seemed to be some way to deactivate every console on your account. I’ve done the same for iTunes purchases many times – I’ve got a few Macs, iPhones and iPads after all – I’d just never considered someone might have more than one of the same games console.
After fumbling through the mess of different PlayStation sites and support portals trying to find this global deactivation option, I apparently couldn’t. “You have deactivated your devices recently and cannot use this feature at this time”. I called support, desperate for answers. I walked through security details and they confirmed that yes, the deactivation of all devices procedure had recently been done, and it appeared to be suspicious activity. Someone would look into the matter and get back to me as soon as possible.
I waited 4 days, unable to access anything. I called again and was told that having been investigated, it appeared that either the account had been compromised or I was lying, and had in fact signed in at a friends house – but that if I had been hacked, it would be my fault for having not been secure enough anyway. There was absolutely nothing they could do for me. I could no longer access my content that I had paid for, on my one and only PlayStation console. Because I’d purchased Call of Duty digitally through the PlayStation store, I couldn’t even play it offline: it just wouldn’t launch at all. My only option was to wait 6 months until the ability to deactivate devices was re-enabled. The wait period is apparently “to prevent game sharing.”
I get why you have restrictions, Sony. Sharing games between friends – which you could do anyway if you had a physical copy – just shouldn’t apply to digital purchases. Maybe I would stretch to letting families share content, but only under the same IP address. But here’s the point: I haven’t been sharing games, and if there is anything I can do to prove that, I would gladly help your investigations. I’m happy to lock my games to ONE system and completely disable any possibility of game sharing now and forever – but I can’t even do that.
The real kicker is that Sony themselves are no stranger to being hacked, having been responsible for the single biggest data leak in history. As an end consumer I should clearly know better. There would be no sympathy for me.
Getting hacked sucks: dealing with the aftermath of that with a company like Sony is like rubbing salt in wounds, pouring in sulphuric acid, then jumping into a pit of abnormally spiky cacti. I’ve embraced the digital gaming revolution because I believed in it – thank you Sony for opening my eyes and shattering that belief.
Now it’s your turn everyone: feel free to say “I told you so – DRM sucks.” I deserve it. But you might want to think twice about buying that shiny new Playstation this Christmas.
Image Credits: glass background Via Shutterstock