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Opinion

Sony's Festive Mini Mess

Not such a happy Christmas.

We all like special offers and bundle deals. I often snap up those Humble Indie Bundles for PC when they pop up and I’ve lost count of the number of game-and-DLC bundles I’ve bought for a pittance in a Steam sale. So when Sony started to run special offers and price reductions on the PSN Store, it was a welcome addition. When they bundle bits and pieces together for a reduced rate, all the better. This is something that the PSN Store has been doing really well with, whether it’s special offers or permanent price reductions, they’re clearly making an effort to be competitively priced – even without any competition.

Unfortunately, one of their bundle offers over the recent festive period has turned into a bit of a disaster for the customers who bought it.

As part of the package of special offers run on the store around Christmas, there was a Pick n Mix bundle of five PlayStation minis for the bargain price of just £3.19/€3.99/$5.60. You bought the Pick n Mix item and it allowed you to choose five minis from the Store’s ample selection of bite sized delights.

The problems arose when customers purchased and downloaded the item from the PSN Store via their PlayStation 3 and then tried to transfer the content to their PSP. It didn’t work. The latest terms of the End User License Agreement on the PlayStation Network reduced the number of machines you’re allowed to use your content on from five to the slightly more restrictive number of two. That’s two PlayStation 3s and two portable devices (PSP or Vita) though, so the transfer shouldn’t have been a problem. In fact, in order to record the issue, a user took a screengrab of the terms for this particular item and posted the image in the community forums. I’ve underlined the relevant portion in red.

The problem was first raised on the community boards on the 22nd of December and reported to the technical support teams by the ever-helpful community moderators. Six days later, on the 28th, a reply was left in that thread which indicated that the bundle was now made available via the PSP side of the PSN Store and if it was (re)purchased and downloaded from there, it would work. Essentially, there were now two versions of the bundle – one on the PSP store and one on the PS3 store which, contrary to most customer’s previous experience, wouldn’t allow transfer to a PSP after purchase.

This seems like a quick patch up that would limit, but not solve the issue in the future. The PS3 store bundle had the line added to its description to say that it was for the PS3 (judging by forum comments this seems to have happened on or around the first of January) but as most minis work on the PS3 as well as the PSP they’re made for, that measure is understandably unclear for many consumers.

If a consumer had bought the bundle on the PS3 store, and selected their five minis, those items became impossible to purchase via the PSP store. The store thinks you already own them and should, theoretically, be able to re-download from your download list. Unfortunately, consumers who managed to get items onto their PSPs were met with error messages explaining that they couldn’t activate on another device. It seems like every combination of available options has been tried, the PS3, PSP and Media Go stores all resulting in error codes and continued frustrations for existing purchasers.

Many users reported lengthy and fruitless calls to customer services, at further personal expense, and others allude to shady solutions which contravene the EULA or local laws. As things progressed past the three week mark, with the bundle still for sale under its new description, consumers did start to see voucher codes emailed to them. These codes would allow the download of five additional minis but if the consumer had already selected their minis and ‘purchased’ them when they first bought the Pick n Mix bundle then those minis remained impossible to select, even with Sony’s vouchers.

Several consumers suggest that they would have been happy with a refund and apology, resetting their purchase history to allow access to the minis they selected and the chance to re-buy them – even at full price. The voucher solution doesn’t seem to have found favour with anyone yet, although there is a slim chance that those who do approve of this peculiar compensation are busy playing their five second choice minis rather than complaining on the forums.

The thread on the community forums which highlights this issue is currently at 28 pages and gets progressively more irate as it goes on. Perhaps the most alarming thing is the tone and language of the Sony customers who are reporting it. They don’t seem particularly surprised, they don’t expect much of a solution and they seem resigned to their issues being swept under the carpet and ignored. Surely that’s a serious problem for Sony, that their engaged consumers are expectant of abysmal after sales support and dishonest cover ups?

I don’t think anyone would reasonably expect a store with as many items and as many customers as the PSN Store to exist without occasional problems arising. Mistakes are made, that’s perfectly understandable. It also seems that this could be a complicated issue to fix, the nature of the deal means that customers all selected different minis so individual item vouchers become very difficult to assign to the right people. But most of the frustration seems to be based around the lack of transparency. Customers seem to feel that Sony hasn’t been open or honest about this issue and has instead tried to cover it up and ignore them.

It might only be £3.19 that changed bank accounts but the subsequent inability to ever access certain content again and the lack of a rapid or open response from Sony has left many consumers feeling jaded. Surely that loss of faith is a much more valuable asset?

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33 Comments
  1. Omac_brother
    Member
    Since: Nov 2011

    What a balls up.

    Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 12:27.
  2. gideon1451
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    That’s just silly.

    Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 12:35.
  3. kjkg
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    You do realise someone is going to ask you how much Microsoft paid you to write this don’t you ;)

    It is pretty poor. I’m not too worried myself though, always had good service from Sony.

    Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 12:36.
  4. gazzagb
    Master of speling mitakse
    Since: Feb 2009

    Was this issue SCEE only, or did it also occur with SCEA?
    Either way, it’s frustrating to see Sony trying to cover up yet again another mistake they’ve made.

    Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 12:40.
    • colossalblue
      Team TSA: Editor
      Since: Forever

      the thread is on the EU community boards but the screengrab is from the US store and I believe the initial issue was with the systems required by the item itself, rather than any localisation.

      Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 12:51.
      • moshi
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        The original T&C’s screen grab for the offer is up there which does not mention the new agreement.

        Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 13:48.
  5. zb100
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    I guess in the wake of the hacking situation & rather stoic stance taken at that time by Sony, their fan base simply don’t expect transparency or any degree of empathy.

    Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 12:42.
  6. shields_t
    Member
    Since: Oct 2008

    That’s pretty poop – I’m glad I never noticed the deal on the store otherwise I probably would have bought it.

    Daft thing is, I would consider myself a fairly loyal playstation consumer, have never called the customer service team but probably wouldn’t bother out of expectancy of crappy service.

    Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 12:42.
    • moshi
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      We would ring up and complain but the cost of the call is more than double the cost of the bundle. I’ve been waiting for them to call me since Tuesday as they said would In a e-mail.

      Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 13:53.
  7. Klart
    Member
    Since: Jun 2010

    I don’t get how a thing like this doesn’t get properly tested.

    Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 13:03.
    • cam the man
      Member
      Since: May 2009

      In the days of the PS1 and PS2 games etc had to be tested properly as there was no way of after sales fixes, but since the PS3 games can easily be patched so doesn’t seem as important to thoroughly test beforehand.
      The number of ‘bugs’ in games etc in the past few years has shot up.

      Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 13:18.
  8. IAmJacksMedullaOblongata
    Member
    Since: Nov 2011

    Unfortunately this is standard fare from Sony’s Store teams. They really haven’t a clue.

    Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 13:08.
  9. mrfodder
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    When they launched the PSPgo with the 3 free games for existing PSP owners, people discovered (myself included) that if you downloaded the games on your PS3 they would not work on the PSPgo. They tied to the PS3 and could not be changed. It was quickly changed so you could not download them on the PS3, but nothing was done for the people caught out. Some people managed to moan enough to Phone support that they got another voucher, but most we left blowing in the wind, so I am not surprised by the Sony response here.

    At a later stage they launched the 10 free games for PSPgo for newly registered machines. I gave it a go, not expecting anything, since mine was already registered and it worked, so I considered it even. I will however not be buying any new Sony systems day one as I do not trust them to help users issues. I expect them to fix them, but not help anyone caught out.

    Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 13:17.
    • mrfodder
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      Forgot to mention, their latest Plus issue. Trailblazers is been given away free to all SCEE Plus users this month. Unfortunately, it’s only released in UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. This has been asked about in Store and Plus blog comments, with as usual no response whatsoever. I imagine if Sony had the account stealing issue of Microsoft, their response would be no better.

      Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 13:20.
      • Deathbrin
        Member
        Since: Aug 2009

        Absolutely no idea what you’re on about with Plus here.

        Comment posted on 14/01/2012 at 14:12.
  10. moshi
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    I started that thread .

    Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 13:44.
    • colossalblue
      Team TSA: Editor
      Since: Forever

      troublemaker :-P

      Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 18:26.
      • moshi
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        Hell Yeah, may be a couple of pounds but over my dead body are they getting it for free.

        Comment posted on 13/01/2012 at 20:13.