Watchdog And Sony: FIGHT!

The internet has been buzzing with rumours that tonight the BBC would show the PS3 in a distinctly negative light with regards to hardware problems reported by users in its Watchdog program. Well, that program has just aired, this evening at 8pm BST. During the program the presenters showed that approximately a month ago, when the BBC got wind of the so-called YLOD (Yellow Light Of Death),  a van was set up outside Sony’s offices emblazoned with the name PlayStation Repair Action Team, the acronym for which we’d normally associate with ‘other’ channels. The van promised to fix any broken PS3s for free, rather than the £128 Sony charge out of warranty customers, in order to prove the point that Sony are overcharging for the fix.

Prior to the show, Sony UK Managing Director Ray Maquire wrote to the BBC concerning the allegations set forth by the BBC and Watchdog. “From the correspondence to date, I have serious concerns as to the accuracy of these allegations and the likely tone of the Watchdog report,” he wrote. “The information that you have provided suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of the technical issues and a mis-characterisation of SCEUK’s Out of Warranty repairs policy.”  He does have a point – Watchdog’s research for the piece allegedly amounted to just 155 complaints and a technical report sent to Sony was based on only three YLOD’d consoles, one of which had already been ‘fixed’ by the user.

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“The testing concerned a sample of only three PS3s, which cannot, on any basis, be deemed to be representative of a UK user base of 2.5 million,” stated Sony. Interestingly, the show was presented by Iain Lee, who GamesIndustry.biz had already established had fronted corporate events for the likes of Microsoft. He has, says the site, also been employed on a freelance based by Microsoft in the past on the company’s Tech and Gadget site. Furthermore, if the BBC was attempting to fix the consoles via the van mentioned above using license payers money, I personally feel this isn’t necessarily good use of the license fee itself and doesn’t demonstrate the impartiality we should expect.

Regardless, the van exercise in particular appears to have fallen flat a little.  Watchdog themselves admitted that four of the consoles ‘repaired’ by their team out of the ten or so were no longer working suggesting that their method of fixing them (which we think cost £103 per console) didn’t work after all, and given the programme’s best attempt to prove that the PS3 ‘costs’ £528 (£400, apparently, for the console plus £128 for the repair) there was a distinct lack of credibility to the article.  Still, with Sony currently riding high in the sales charts on the back of the cheaper, redesigned PS3 Slim any press of this sort can’t be great news for the company.  Ray Maquire’s letter, all six pages of it, was determined and straight forward, but seemingly largely cast aside during the programme – it will be interesting to see where this leads in the coming weeks.

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