Debugging PS3?

Posted by: Kenji Hall on November 9, 2006

This just in from Sony. For all you video gamers who plan to buy a PlayStation 3 console in Japan on Nov. 11 (launch day), there’s going to be a freebie: software update version 1.10.

You may be wondering why Sony is updating software that hasn’t even reached store shelves yet. The company says v. 1.10 will let you plug into the PlayStation Network, the company’s online gaming arena, from day one. Co-developed by Sony Online Entertainment and GameSpy Networks, PlayStation Network is a virtual playground and shopping mall for gamers. It matches players who are logged on, ranks scores, lets users chat by voice or video or instant-message, and is a megastore for game downloads. Good news, to be sure. But why is Sony announcing add-ons just days before the PS3 goes on sale?

It should come as no surprise for anyone who has been following the PS3’s delays and production problems over the past few months. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with improving the gaming experience. Offering v. 1.10 now is better than having owners complain on Internet gaming sites about the PS3’s unfulfilled promises in the days immediately after the launch. Still, judging from the PS2 and Microsoft Xbox 360 launch, it’s nearly impossible for game console makers to anticipate all the potential problems that might crop up. According to a source, execs at the games division, Sony Computer Entertainment, have got PS3 developers pulling all-nighters at Tokyo headquarters to test for bugs and other nasty gremlins that might be lurking inside the machine.

That’s why v. 1.10 arouses my suspicions a bit. I’m dying to ask Sony if the software update ONLY contains the publicized update to connect to the online gaming service, and not a patch to fix bugs. The last thing Sony needs is bad press about glitches that might spoil the machine’s debut. But my feeling is that if it’s a patch, call it a patch.

Sony says this is not the final software update planned. Another will be downloadable in late November and is expected to let owners of both the PlayStation Portable, the checkbook-sized carry-around console, and the PS3 to link the two gadgets seamlessly. If Sony can keep adding goodies without a hitch, more power to it—and PS3 owners.

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Bloomberg Businessweek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies.

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