PS4 Battery Time-Keeping Time-Bomb Silently Patched By Sony; PS3 Consoles Still Waiting

from the tick-tock dept

Over the past several months, there have been a couple of stories that certainly had owners of Sony PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 consoles completely wigging out. First came Sony’s announcement that it was going to shut down support for the PlayStation Store and PlayStation Network on those two consoles. This briefly freaked everyone out, the thinking being that digitally purchased games would be disappeared. Sony confirmed that wouldn’t be the case, but there was still the question of game and art preservation, given that no new purchases would be allowed and that in-game purchases and DLC wouldn’t be spared for those who bought them. As a result of the outcry, Sony reversed course for both consoles specifically for access to the PlayStation Store, nullifying the debate. Except that immediately afterward came word of an issue with the PS3 and PS4 console batteries and the way they check in with the PlayStation Network (PSN) to allow users to play digital or physical game media. With the PSN still sunsetting on those consoles, the batteries wouldn’t be able to check in, and would essentially render the console and all the games users had worthless and unplayable.

But now that too has been corrected by Sony, albeit in a completely unannounced fashion.

PlayStation owners wanting to preserve their PS4 libraries well into the future can breathe a sigh of relief, as the system’s latest firmware update reportedly fixes a time bomb found inside every console.

While Sony’s official patch notes for the 9.00 update strangely make no mention of the CMOS fix, that lack of mention may point to a change in its attitude about PlayStation’s legacy platforms. With PS5’s backward-compatibility limited (so far) to PS4 titles and in the absence of a major overhaul to its PS Now streaming library of games, taking the step to push an update that nixes the CMOS issue on PS3 as well would be a welcome shift.

So now PS4 owners are off the hook, though whether they know it or not appears to be a matter of whether they read the news about this on sites like this. PS3 owners, meanwhile, don’t currently have a fix in place. And that really does highlight a continuing messaging and transparency problem when it comes to Sony and how it treats its PlayStation customers.

Sony has, far too often, had to either reverse course on its plans when its own fans go apeshit, such as when it finally enabled cross-console play for PlayStation games, or instead has had to weather tough public relations and legal storms when it kept to its plans, such as when it removed useful features from the PS3 via firmware update after the public had already bought the console.

It’s great that the company fixed this problem for the PS4 owners, but what about everyone else? Why not let people know the fix has been made? Why can’t this company communicate?

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Comments on “PS4 Battery Time-Keeping Time-Bomb Silently Patched By Sony; PS3 Consoles Still Waiting”

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37 Comments
Dirk Belligerentsays:

Ummmm, PS4 support was NOT being killed.

As I’m reading this, I’m wondering what lunatic at Sony would kill of the ability of over 116 million PS4 owners to purchase content when the PS5 is less than a year old and extremely difficult to buy still? I just managed to snag one directly from Sony a few days ago for a friend who’d given up trying. (We both got XBSeXes at launch, though.)

Then I read the linked story and see that it’s the PS3, PSP, and Vita initially getting iced, NOT the PS4. That kinda moots most of the panic-mongering in this story, no?

Rekrulsays:

Even if they release a firmware fix for the PS3, what happens if you don’t have access to PSN?

I have a PS3 that I don’t use, mostly because I don’t like how most all the games for it require you to go online to download patches and because all of the games I have for it (which I was given with the console) are FPS type games that I can’t play using the analog sticks on the controller. Also, the few games I actually want for it, can’t be bought in physical releases, at least not in complete form.

Needless to say I’ve never connected it to the net and don’t have a PSN account.

I suppose it’s a moot point for me, since I’m probably never going to bother with it as long as going online is virtually required to get a fully patched and complete game.

Phoenix84says:

Re: Ummmm, PS4 support was NOT being killed.

There was never a concern for PS4 players. Timothy doesn’t even remember the article he linked in the first paragraph, that he wrote.
The problem was with PSP, PS3, and PSVita owners. PS4 was never a problem.
It would eventually be a problem, when Sony decided to shut down PSN for the PS4, but that’s not what they announced.

I’m surprised, techdirt isn’t usually this badly wrong.

PaulTsays:

Re: Ummmm, PS4 support was NOT being killed.

"As I’m reading this, I’m wondering what lunatic at Sony would kill of the ability of over 116 million PS4 owners to purchase content when the PS5 is less than a year old and extremely difficult to buy still?"

That was never what this story was about. The issue is that as CMOS batteries died or needed to be replaced (as will eventually always be required on a long enough timescale), the PSN would not accept that the console was the one that was already associated with the network and players would lose the ability to play games already installed. They have now fixed that problem with the PS4, but the problem remains with PS3-era consoles.

This was never a story about Sony deliberately blocking PS4 players, but rather a design flaw with the DRM that would ultimately mean that every PS4 player would have eventually lost access to their purchased library if it wasn’t addressed. A secondary issue was that they had planned to just block all the PS3-era consoles from accessing the PSN at all, but that was reversed after the outcry. So, we’re just waiting for them to extend the same protection to people have have bought PS3 titles from them.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Ummmm, PS4 support was NOT being killed.

These were two separate but related issues. Killing the PS3 and Vita online backend AND the PS4 CMOS issue. The PS4 problem was that the internal battery was necessary for license verification without a connection to the online server, something scheduled to become a major problem down the line once Sony eventually one day did the same to the PS4 servers as well as for any PS4 owner without a constant internet connection after their battery died.

These stories are ALWAYS badly handled by this site, places like Digital Foundry do far better explanations.

Maxsays:

Re: Re: Ummmm, PS4 support was NOT being killed.

It’s rather unfortunate then that this is not at all what the above article says. Starting with how a "battery" is supposed to "check in". I’m sure if one is already well aware of what the actual news is, with enough sheer effort the words in the article can be misconstrued to say what they should be but are not.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Ummmm, PS4 support was NOT being killed.

"This was never a story about Sony deliberately blocking PS4 players, but rather a design flaw with the DRM"

DRM is always about deliberating blocking players. It just affected more players than Sony intended to block this time.

(Or, what I believe is more likely, the affected players found out about it early enough that Sony had to backpedal. "Every PS4 will be bricked when their CMOS batteries eventually die" being reported while the PS4 is still relevant hurts PR more than a wave of "My PS4 just died and I don’t know why" being reported when the majority has moved on to the PS5/6.)

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Ummmm, PS4 support was NOT being killed.

Reading that line about batteries checking in online really made me feel physical pain. Like….what?

It’s really not hard for someone writing an article on this to take the time to learn how the verification system for both downloaded and physical disc based games worked off the internal clock on the console, and that if the battery died the clock would zero itself. That’s literally 30 seconds’ worth of googling. Less time than it takes to READ this article.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Re: Ummmm, PS4 support was NOT being killed.

"Starting with how a "battery" is supposed to "check in""

A CMOS battery powers a motherboard, which contains certain information that’s used to control DRM under Sony’s schema. If that dies or is otherwise replaced, that data is lost, so when the console next needs to check in on logging into the PSN, it’s no longer recognised as the same console.

This is not hard.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Ummmm, PS4 support was NOT being killed.

Reading that line about batteries checking in online really made me feel physical pain. Like….what?

Rechargeable batteries sometimes do have microcontrollers built in, and could in theory do that. But even Sony hasn’t gone that far with the DRM yet. The CMOS battery is probably a standard 2032 with no intelligence. I’d be surprised if the real-time clock even has any real security; it might be possible to hook up a few wires from a Raspberry Pi or similar and reset it.

PaulTsays:

Re:

"most all the games for it require you to go online to download patches"

Now, I’m mainly an XBox user and haven’t used by PS3 for a while, but I think there’s a difference between required and "required". That is, if your console never goes online you don’t need a patch to play (though, you may be disappointed at the bugs present in the unpatched version on the disc). If you do connect, then games may require you to download a patch so that you’re on the same version as other players you might connect to. Very frustrating if you only want to play a single player campaign, but perfectly understandable if you’re on a multiplayer FPS.

"Needless to say I’ve never connected it to the net and don’t have a PSN account."

Then, as far as Sony are concerned, you don’t exist. Sad, but very true right now. Part of MS’s backlash with the XBox One seemed to be related to the fact that they assumed that people would be online all the time and they got a lot of heat from people like deployed military who used XBox but couldn’t connect while deployed, but those people didn’t show up in the online-only market research…

bhull242says:

Re:

Even if they release a firmware fix for the PS3, what happens if you don’t have access to PSN?

The PSN only governs online connectivity between one console and at least one other (of the same or different types). Firmware updates (along with other things like software updates and the PlayStation Store) don’t use PSN even though they do require the console to be connected to the internet.

I have a PS3 that I don’t use, mostly because I don’t like how most all the games for it require you to go online to download patches […]

Most software requires you to go online if you want to download patches; that’s kinda how downloading works. I’m not really sure what you expect; whether you play games on a PS3, PS4, PS5, PSP, PSVita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS/2DS, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, tablet, or mobile device, they all require you to go online to download patches.

If you’re complaining about the fact that you have to download patches at all, that’s understandable, though again far from exclusive to the PS3.

Also, the few games I actually want for it, can’t be bought in physical releases, at least not in complete form.

Unless you’re looking for some sort of DLC, most games that can be bought physically are playable—if sometimes buggy—without an online connection at all. Unless they are online multiplayer games, in which case I have no idea why you’re complaining about having to connect to the internet to download this stuff in the first place.

Needless to say I’ve never connected it to the net and don’t have a PSN account.

Okay… I don’t know why this is such a big issue for you, though…

I suppose it’s a moot point for me, since I’m probably never going to bother with it as long as going online is virtually required to get a fully patched and complete game.

Again, almost all modern games and modern systems have that requirement, especially the fully patched thing.

Really, while I can understand the annoyance with having to download stuff for the final product, and I can certainly understand being annoyed that some single-player-only games require an online connection to start playing at all or for DRM or something, I really don’t get why you’re so bothered by the fact that patches require an online connection to be downloaded or why you’re so focused on this being the case for the PS3, specifically, given that every console or handheld dedicated gaming device since the Xbox 360 (if not earlier) as well as PCs, smartphones, tablets, etc. have the exact same requirements. In other words, it’s been a thing since online gaming or downloading games from the internet has been a thing, and I’m not entirely sure how you would expect to get those patches without an online connection.

bhull242says:

Re: Re:

[Microsoft] got a lot of heat from people like deployed military who used XBox but couldn’t connect while deployed, but those people didn’t show up in the online-only market research…

Imagine that; people who can’t connect online didn’t show up in online-only research and so couldn’t let the researchers know that a decent portion of their consumer base can’t connect to the internet every day or so! What a shocking turn of events! What’s next? That interviewing only people who go to church every week won’t give preachers an idea as to why some people—including some Christians—don’t go to church often, if at all? What is this madness!?

Rekrulsays:

Re: Re:

That is, if your console never goes online you don’t need a patch to play (though, you may be disappointed at the bugs present in the unpatched version on the disc).

Exactly. Many games today are released broken.

Then, as far as Sony are concerned, you don’t exist. Sad, but very true right now.

Which is the main reason I hate the state of video games today.

bhull242says:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ummmm, PS4 support was NOT being killed.

We’re talking about a guy who once referred to the devs of some crowdfunded indie game that was going Epic-exclusive and handled it badly as the developers of the latest Oddworld game, a completely different set of developers who did go Epic-exclusive for their game but did not receive anywhere near the same backlash, a mistake that is still on this site—uncorrected—years later.

Face it; Tim Geigner makes a lot of mistakes and can never be bothered to either do some basic double-checking before posting or to actually do anything to address his mistakes. He can be very incompetent about very simple matters. I would not be surprised if this, too, remains uncorrected and unaddressed on this site forever.

Rekrulsays:

Re: Re:

Most software requires you to go online if you want to download patches; that’s kinda how downloading works. I’m not really sure what you expect; whether you play games on a PS3, PS4, PS5, PSP, PSVita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS/2DS, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, tablet, or mobile device, they all require you to go online to download patches.

Yes, you get patches online, but…

At least in the past, to get a patch for a Windows game, you would go to a web site, download the patch EXE file and run it. Or it might come as a Zip file that you extract to the game directory. You were then free to burn that patch to a disk, copy it to a backup drive or whatever you wanted.

With consoles, the patch is downloaded directly by the game/console and applied. There’ no way to make a true backup copy. If you can make a backup at all (I honestly don’t know, I’ve never tried), it will be tied to the console that downloaded it. If that console dies and you get a new one, your "backups" are worthless.

Unless you’re looking for some sort of DLC, most games that can be bought physically are playable—if sometimes buggy—without an online connection at all.

Yes, it’s the buggy part that I don’t like. Many games today are seriously broken upon release. And DLC, which can often make up a major portion of the game, is often only available in the same way patches are and can’t be truly backed up, just like with patches.

Okay… I don’t know why this is such a big issue for you, though…

It bothers me to have a console that I would probably enjoy, but that to fully use it requires leashing it to the internet and having an online account. Sony may not have dropped support for it yet, but give it another ten years or so. Assuming I have a working console, I can pop in any PS1 game and play it, but even with a working console, I may not be able to play PS3 games in the future, or if I can, it will only be the buggy physical releases.

Really, while I can understand the annoyance with having to download stuff for the final product, and I can certainly understand being annoyed that some single-player-only games require an online connection to start playing at all or for DRM or something, I really don’t get why you’re so bothered by the fact that patches require an online connection to be downloaded or why you’re so focused on this being the case for the PS3, specifically, given that every console or handheld dedicated gaming device since the Xbox 360 (if not earlier) as well as PCs, smartphones, tablets, etc. have the exact same requirements.

I want to be able to go to a web site, download the files and burn them to a disc for future use. I want to be able to at some point in the future, put in a physical release of a game, install it, then put in my patch disc and install the patches. Then I want to be able to put in the disc with the DLC for the game and install that.

If firmware updates are required, I want to do a quick Google search download the firmware update, burn it to a disc, or slap it on a USB drive, and install it that way.

Of course that will never be allowed because PIRACY!!!!!!!!

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

Most software requires you to go online if you want to download patches; that’s kinda how downloading works.

That’s a common view of developers which causes inconvenience for a lot of people. There’s no reason why the software needs to be the one that downloads the update from the internet. People with spotty connectivity would often prefer to download it themselves, e.g. via a web browser, and feed it to the system later (maybe the system’s at a cottage with no internet, maybe you’re the one person it 100 miles with internet and everyone else will copy via USB, whatever).

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re:

I long for the good times when games were finished and QA passed before release, so they didn’t require dowloading patches or cashgrab DLC at all.

However, I most definitely don’t miss that interim period when we had to constantly check websites to see if some game or another had a patch available to manually install. That was like, the worst of both worlds.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well, yes and no. There were multiple problems associated with the disastrous One launch, but the thing you’re probably thinking of is that the console was originally only usable online. That is, if the console could not phone home at any time, you couldn’t use it, even if you were only using it to play a single player game, or even play a DVD. Supposedly this was to allow a feature where you would be able to loan games to friends, but that feature combined with the extra cost and privacy concerns with having a Kinect bundled with every console killed the launch and handed the market to the PS4.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"I long for the good times when games were finished and QA passed before release"

Although, you’re kidding yourself if you think that always happened. I can name at least 3 games that were not possible to complete due to game breaking bugs, but in the days pre-internet I didn’t find that out until after a lot of effort assuming that I was doing something wrong.

Also, there’s the flipside to this argument where many games don’t just download patches to fix bugs, they do it to constantly improve the game. Also, of course, not all DLC is a cash grab. Sure, there’s some games where the DLC is barely worth loading or even that’s included on the disc itself, but there’s others where the DLC is arguably better than the core game.

Rekrulsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

Also, there’s the flipside to this argument where many games don’t just download patches to fix bugs, they do it to constantly improve the game. Also, of course, not all DLC is a cash grab. Sure, there’s some games where the DLC is barely worth loading or even that’s included on the disc itself, but there’s others where the DLC is arguably better than the core game.

Much of which will be lost in the future. When support for the consoles is dropped, any new user trying to play those games for the first time won’t have access to any of the patches, improvements or DLC, which were all only obtainable by letting the game itself download them. Not just multiplayer games, but the single player campaigns as well.

There are people today who buy older consoles for the first time with the intention of trying out games that they missed or that came out before they were even born. Someone will buy an Amiga or a Colecovision and collect games for it to experience them for the first time. How is that going to work with a console like the PS3 after Sony drops support for it and you can no longer have it go online to download patches and DLC?

Today, you can amass a huge collection of games for the original NES, but PS3 collections of the future are going to be Swiss cheese, with games only available in their broken release state, missing DLC and some games not available at all due to being digital only.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

I appreciate your desire to have everything on a physical disc that will be preserved if a company goes under. But, that’s not reality right now. Like it or not, there are advantages and disadvantages to the current distribution methods, and they’re not going back.

"Today, you can amass a huge collection of games for the original NES, but PS3 collections of the future are going to be Swiss cheese"

I have a bunch of games for the ZX Spectrum and Atari ST which I’m not sure will actually be usable next time I try due to it being magnetic media, and I have some VHS tapes and DVDs that have rotted. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that physical media is immortal just because it’s not dependent on a 3rd party.

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