I recently had the misfortune of needing to send my PS3 into Sony for servicing. Something was wrong with the graphics card and was creating very unpleasant graphical artifacts and texture issues on most of my games. EA Sports games such as Madden and NCAA were very badly affected. Fallout New Vegas would sometimes go completely black on me. Metal Gear Solid 4 saw some very irritating texture pop-ins and coloration issues. Even the Back to the Future downloadable game from the PSN was suffering from similar problems. Pretty much every game I played was starting to look like this ...
... or this ...
I did a little research on the internet before calling Sony to see if the problem was something that I could solve myself. I figured that it was a faulty GPU or overheating problem. The general consensus on internet forums agreed with me, saying that replacing the GPU or re-applying the heat sink would probably solve the problem. This is a fix that I could have done myself if I had the parts.
But I didn't want to take the risk of opening the system up, not being able to fix it, and then being turned down for services by Sony on the grounds that I had tampered with the console. So I called them up and arranged to have the system sent in for repairs.
Sony's Track Record
This is something that I've actually had to do before. In fact, I've had to do it with all of my PlayStation consoles. My original PlayStation died after about 2 years. I got a replacement from Sony that I kept up until I bought a PSOne to replace it. My PS2 died within around one year, and I had to send that into Sony. On the day after I got it back, my parents' house was broken into and the console was stolen. So that was a real bummer. My first PS3 died within about 6 months. Noticing a pattern yet? At this rate, my PS6 will probably die within 3 weeks of purchase.
PS3 Hard Drive Installation
Now, anybody who has tried to install their own hard drive on the PS3 has been greeted with this prompt:
If you're putting a new drive into the same system, then it's no problem. But if you're trying to copy the backup onto a different unit ... Eh, things don't go so smoothly. As I learned the first time I had to have my PS3 replaced by Sony, a majority of what is saved in the backup is not transferrable to a new unit.
Now, I had learned from my previous experience with replacing a PS3 that Sony doesn't always repair the unit that is sent in. Often times, they just send a replacement. This made me very weary about sending in my PS3, since I knew that replacing the PS3 would lead to a loss of much of my content. So I waited until the problem became so bad that games were unplayable.
Sending the System In
Eventually, I had to call and send in the system. And since it was out of warranty (3 years old), I had to pay $130. Half the price of buying a brand, spanking new one. So why didn't I buy a new one? Well, I have the backwards-compatible 60GB version. I still play PSX and PS2 games occasionally, and I specifically bought this unit because of its backwards-compatibility. I don't want a new model of PS3.
Of course, they sent back a replacement. Even though I had specifically told the customer service agent that I wanted them to fix and return my same unit because I didn't want to go through the hassle of redownloading all my content.
Unfortunately, the system that they sent me didn't even work. The disc slot loader motor was busted, so I couldn't put any games into the system. What ever happened to the good, old days when CD drives had lids? You didn't have to worry about it breaking because all it is was just a latch and spring! Now, we have to have motorized trays and slot-loaders, and other fancy-ass shit that is just more complicated parts that can break.
So, I had to call them again and send the replacement back. This time they actually fixed the same unit and returned it, which meant I got to go through the process of restoring all my content.
But since console that I got back yesterday is the same replacement unit that was broken out-of-the-box two weeks ago, I have ZERO faith that it will last more than a year. The warranty seal sticker that is supposed to be on the bottom is also missing. They did not put it back on. Which means they probably won't even take the console back if it does break again, even though I called Customer Service again to ask about it, and they said that the missing sticker won't affect whether or not they service the console in the future. I have a feeling that I'll find out eventually...
Reinstalling, Lost Game Saves, & Archived Memory Cards
The excitement that I felt about having my PS3 back (well, not technically "mine" anymore, I guess) quickly turned into irritation when I saw the list of 502 PSN downloads that I had to re-install. One by one. Most of them were Rock Band songs. But I expected this. It took the whole day to queue up all the files for download and install them. I had to stop every so often because the system can only have about 20 uninstalled downloads before it refuses to download any more. Eventually, I got everything I wanted.
Then the irritation that used to be excitement turned into anger and frustration when I looked through my Game Save folder and noticed which save files were no longer in the list.
Game saves that were not recovered:
Yep. Demon's Souls. Possibly the hardest and most brutally-unforgiving game on the PS3. Possibly even in this generation of consoles! The 80% or so of progress that I had made through the game was just suddenly gone.
Now, I can't put all the blame on Sony. It is also the game developers' fault for making copy-protected save files. Supposedly, they do this to prevent players from stealing DLC content or cheating on PSN trophies by copying each other's saves that contain those files. But I call "bullshit!" on that excuse. That is what the Game Data Utility folder is for! Save your god-damned DLC and trophy information in that file! Not the gorram fracking personal save file!
In addition, even my archived PSX and PS2 internal memory cards did not restore to the replacement system! The PSX and PS2 memory cards were considered "copy protected data" and could not be restored. Seriously, Sony, what the FUCK?! A friend of mine was in the middle of playing through Metal Gear Solid at the time that I had to send the PS3 in, and I was currently playing through Final Fantasy IV. Fortunately, I had the foresight to save both those files to a physical memory card before I sent the system in just in case my friend or I decided to pick up where we left off on the PS2 or PS1 consoles.
But also included in my PS3's internal memory cards was 2 whole memory cards worth of archived ESPN NFL 2K5 replay saves that I was intending to use for an upcoming analysis of the superiorities that are still present in NFL 2k5 when compared to Madden 2011. But now those replays (and the analysis that came with each one) will never see the light of day.
Honestly, Sony, why would internal memory cards not be restorable from a system backup? What harm could restoring those files possibly do? They come from the days before DLC and PSN trophies. What kind of piracy or cheating could you possibly be worried about with memory card files? They are an emulation of removeable media anyway! Which means I can take them to someone else's PSOne or PS2 and use them!
What does "System Activation" do?
So since copy-protected material cannot be transferred from one console to another, what the hell is the "System Activation" option under "Account Management" for? I mean, if I currently only have ONE system activated, shouldn't I be able to use my content on that one system? Even if it is a different serial number? Otherwise, what's the point of going through the "System Deactivation" process before you send it in?
Sony's Customer Service
Sony's customer service is horrible. Not the service. Just the policies, the way that the hardware is configured, and the lack of respect that the whole process has for the consumer. I don't understand how they are still in business when repairing a $600 piece of hardware goes something like this:
"Thank you for calling Sony Customer Support. Oh, your PS3 broke. Well that's too bad. Go ahead and back up your hard drive even though none of it can be restored onto a replacement system anyway. Pay us $130. And then send the system in. If we feel like fixing it, we will. But we probably won't, cuz that would require, like, you know, work. So we'll send you a replacement and inconvenience you even more by making it impossible for you to restore your save files and downloadable content. Thank you and have a nice day. Or a shitty day. Whatever."
Alright, Sony, listen. Why the hell do you have to be so insensitive? I mean, really? You won't let us copy content because you're afraid of piracy. That's somewhat reasonable. Except not, because the people who pirate aren't gonna buy the stuff anyway. All this sort of copy-protection does is harm the regular consumer who did pay for your product and services.
But knowing that copy-protected content can't be transferred, why would you send a different unit?
Why not fix the one that was sent in?
Or alternatively, why not provide a data-transfer service and copy our data to the replacement unit yourself? At least the fucking save files? I'm OK with having to redownload DLC and game install files. But losing save files? For games that I spent dozens (or hundreds) of hours playing?
Why not change the new console's serial and CPU numbers to match the old one so that content will be transferrable?
Or why not have an online PSN service allowing consumers to upload their save files and DLC installations to the server before sending in the console, and then download them again when the new console arrives?
With all the resources and money at your disposal, can't you do something - anything - to make this less of a hassle for the consumer who supported you by buying a $600 piece of hardware and thousands of dollars worth of games and online content?
Wasn't losing access to my PS3 for a whole month and having to pay $130 to have it repaired/replaced enough of an inconvenience?
I guess not...
UPDATE July 5, 2011: PlayStation Plus does have a Cloud Save feature
The PlayStation Plus premium subscription component for the PlayStation Network does apparently include a cloud save feature. I discovered this after I signed up for my free month of PlayStation Plus that is included in the "Welcome Back" program that Sony offered.
I would think that the least Sony could do is give people with service requests a time period to be able to access the cloud save feature so that they could upload any save files onto the cloud prior to sending in the system for service. That account could then remain open for a few weeks or a month after the system is returned to the customer so they can restore those files.
If you expect your PS3 to die on you sometime soon, it might not be a bad idea to sign up for PlayStation Plus real quick, just so that you can upload your copy-protected save files to the cloud! Although, from what I've read about this feature, some save files may not be transferable to the cloud - it is apparently up to the publisher whether the saves can be copied or not.
UPDATE 07/05/2012: Yet another PS3 failure strikes again!