Features// SPOnG's Review of the Year '09: September

Posted 1 Jan 2010 10:05 by
This is a continuing SPOnG retrospective of the year’s events.


This month traditionally marks a new season of TV, to try and lure us away from the looming threat of Autumn and to give those who’ve been watching reruns of Loose Women over the Summer something a bit more exciting to watch.

PS3 owners on Watchdog. Look at their sad faces.
PS3 owners on Watchdog. Look at their sad faces.
Unfortunately, September also saw the start of a revamped series of Watchdog, with an ill-informed episode airing that put Sony’s PS3 in the spotlight (“BBC’s Watchdog PS3 Show FAIL”, 18th Sep 2009). You would think that, being tax-payer funded and all, Auntie would spend our money wisely on some good researchers. This show made everyone think again.

In an attempt to highlight the failure rate of PlayStation 3s, the ‘new, sexy’ Watchdog approached one or two people with consoles exhibiting the “Yellow Light of Death” (a hardware malfunction of which Sony refused to specify the cause) and made the case that, because Sony charges for repairs once the console’s one-year warranty expires, the whole thing was a ripoff.

Why? Because the issue of non-starting consoles with a blinking yellow light can simply be fixed by microwaving the motherboard (!) and doing a little soldering work. Or so said Watchdog’s own “PlayStation Repair Action Team,” who offered to fix people’s broken consoles for free outside Sony’s London headquarters.

Problem was, the aptly named ‘PRAT’ wasn’t quite correct, because many of the consoles it quick-fixed ended up exhibiting the same yellow light problem. Add to this a broad claim that, despite Sony admitting to 12,500 consoles having the problem, the number “could be so much more!!” (very scientific), a daft song and attempted comedy and you had a rather big farce of a once-respectable consumer affairs programme.

SCEE's Ray Maguire
SCEE's Ray Maguire
It was so embarrassing that Sony Computer Entertainment UK MD, Ray Maguire, sent a rather long and terse letter to the BBC objecting to the show’s segment. Following this, the Watchdog program had made the following statement on its webpage; “Please note, we cannot publish any brand names and any new allegations about the Sony PlayStation 3.” Tail shoved firmly between legs (“BBC Shows Halo ODST and Defends PS3 Assault”, 18th Sep 2009).

Sony had other problems to deal with in September besides sensational TV reports. The company had released Firmware 3.0 for the PlayStation 3, but users quickly experienced problems with non-functioning peripherals and regular disconnections from the PlayStation Network. A SPOnG staffer even had his bricked by the whole affair, which he thankfully managed to sort out himself.

A patch was soon announced to the public (“SCEE to Address PS3 Firmware 3.0 Issues Today”, 8th Sep 2009) vowing to fix all of the issues, and after a time that felt like forever, Sony released it to the world (“PlayStation 3 Firmware Update 3.01 Slips Out”, 15th Sep 2009) and all was well again. Apparently it also fixed some issues with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Bonus.

Xbox 360's Jasper
Xbox 360's Jasper
Over in Microsoft’s world, it appeared that the new Xbox 360 ‘Jasper’ chipset that was introduced several months ago had solved a lot of the company’s ‘Red Ring of Death’ woes. US warranty provider SquareTrade published a survey that suggested that despite the Jasper having “likely solved the well-publicised “Red Ring of Death (RROD) problem” (“Study says Jasper Likely Solved Xbox 360 RROD”, 2nd Sep 2009), failure rate of the console was still 435% higher than the Wii.
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