There is a rumour floating around the internet that Chinese students were forced to manufacture the PlayStation 4 as part of an internship and, due to poor working conditions, they have sabotaged the PlayStation 4 launch, causing the reports of broken PS4s that you’ve seen.
The students were taking an internship at the Foxconn plants and were told if they did not work overtime and night shifts, their diploma would be withheld and they would fail their course.
Foxconn had admitted to the problem in October and released a statement: “Immediate actions have been taken to bring that campus into full compliance with our code and policies,” the company said. This includes “reinforcing the policies of no overtime and no night shifts for student interns, even though such work is voluntary, and reminding all interns of their rights to terminate their participation in the program at any time.”
The story took a twist on August 28th with a post on the IGN boards, allegedly from one of the students: “Since Foxconn are not treating us well, we will not treat ps4 console well. The ps4 console we assemble can be turned on at best.” The post was from an account created just one day previous and was quickly deleted.
Some have suggested that reports of PlayStation 4s failing – or being broken straight out of the box – may be due to the sabotage by a student. However this is almost certainly not true, as after assembly electronic devices should go through quality assurance checks so any sabotaged PS4s would have surely been discovered at that point.
Electronics firms do not create devices, shove them in a box and ship them – they are always tested. In fact, Foxconn in particular have been in the news for implementing rigorous quality controls.
A verified PS4 fitter from the Foxconn Yantai plant, where 98% of PS4s are being made, has been posting on a message board over the weekend and has said the chances of failing inspection are “very low”. He also denied that workers were deliberately sabotaging units by spitting on them.
There does seem to be one very simple reason why some consoles are not up to scratch, “Everyone wants a good machine but the workers are doing every day tired, it is inevitable there will be bad machines,” explained the fitter.
When you are making millions of consoles with a tired and overworked production line, shoving them in container ships and transporting them across the globe, somewhere along the way a minority of consoles will fail. There is also the possibility of user error, as Kotaku have recently fixed their “broken” PS4 which was having problems with the HDMI output.
“The good news here is that the problem was small and easily fixed. The slightly bad news is that we’re unable to tell you why this happened. It’s certainly possible that we accidentally knocked that piece of metal upward when we first plugged Sony’s HDMI wire into the PS4. We can’t rule out human error on our end.”
Other issues, such as the “Blinking Blue Light” error which many Amazon reviewers have reported, may be down to incompatible televisions or a loose hard drive. Sony have released a guide to help with this, which you can access here.
It should be noted that many of the negative 1 star Amazon reviews are from trolls, “I did not have any playstation, i just want to prove that anyone can leave a feedback to kill a brand and discourage people from buying it,” explained one helpful reviewer.
However, with over a million consoles shipped in the United States, Sony are reporting that 0.4% of them are having problems. “A handful of people have reported issues with their PlayStation 4 systems,” they told IGN.
“This is within our expectations for a new product introduction, and the vast majority of PS4 feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We are closely monitoring for additional reports, but we think these are isolated incidents and are on track for a great launch.
“There have been several problems reported, which leads us to believe there isn’t a singular problem that could impact a broader percentage of systems. The number of affected systems represents less than 0.4 per cent of shipped units to date, which is within our expectations for a new product introduction.”
The problem for Sony is that since most of the people with defective systems have access to the internet, a relatively small number of failures can be blown out of proportion and become and worldwide epidemic of failing consoles. If social media had existed when the PS1 was launched, I expect we would have had the same headlines, in fact I would put money on next weekend’s headlines including a couple of stories of Xbox Ones failing and how the internet is outraged.
It sucks if you are one of the few who got a dodgy console, but there is absolutely nothing that anyone – including Sony – can do to prevent issues like this at launch.
Actually that is not entirely true, Sony could insist on using on the finest manufacturing techniques, the best quality components and ensuring Foxconn employees have decent working conditions and a good wage, but then your PS4 would cost £1,000, not £350. Even then, they could not guarantee the console would never, ever fail because, well, shit happens.
At the moment there is no firm proof that consoles are failing for any specific reasons but there is proof that Foxconn are overworking their employees yet again. That, perhaps, is more of a story than a small number of consoles failing to play Killzone Shadow Fall.