Throughout yesterday’s ‘Day of Despair’ for PS3, Sony persistently referred to the issue as a problem with PSN – but the truth behind what caused the global blackout of around 90 per cent of the world’s PS3 is a lot more complicated.
PSN was initially thought to be at fault as the first signs of trouble emerged with a network failure warning on affected consoles. However, when reports appeared of machines crashing that weren’t connected to the internet it soon became apparent that something else was at play.
Eagle-eyed users spotted that the PS3’s clock had reset itself to January 1st 2000, a fact that turned attentions to the console’s internal hardware. And with the date being March 1st, the reality of a leap-year ‘2KY’ style problem became apparent.
“The PS3's internal clock is completely invisible to the end user and is used to sync with PSN, as well as time-stamping trophies and downloadable content activation certificates,” Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry explained.
“Yesterday, with this invisible master clock now set to a date that simply didn't exist due to a misunderstanding of leap years, most trophy-supported games wouldn't launch either online or offline, PSN couldn't be accessed, and the activation certificates for downloaded content became invalid.
“A small ARM Syscon CPU dedicated to menial tasks within the PlayStation 3 was known to have an issue dealing with leap years. The same piece of silicon had a history of causing similar aggravation for mobile devices with the likes of Zune and some Blackberry devices afflicted.”
Some eager owners were able to circumvent the problem by removing the clock’s internal battery, thus resetting the chip. For the rest of all, all that was needed was to wait for March 2nd to roll around.
A future patch will likely address the shortcoming, ensuring that PS3’s day of pain will not occur again.