The substantial security threat that has rocked the PlayStation Network could trigger widespread mistrust in digital distribution, a group of studios have said.
Several leading digital games studios have told Develop the infamous PSN hack may not only impact on Sony’s troubled service, but the digital distribution process as a whole.
“There’s a real concern that PSN users will have lost a lot of trust,” said Lol Scragg, CEO of Dundee studio Cohort.
“The PSN market could well decrease after this,” he said.
“There are so many issues for consumers to think about now”.
Cohort is set to close down in a matter of weeks, and its final game – Me Monstar – could miss its release due to the ongoing PSN blackout.
“Our concern is that people just will not be able to purchase our game as it launches next week,” Scragg said.
A ‘LITTLE STEP BACK’
Scragg’s views are to an extent echoed by Ste Curran, the creative director of Kuju Entertainment's Zoe Mode studio in Brighton.
“From my perspective, the bigger issue is not about PSN, but confidence in digital distribution generally,” Curran said.
“For every story like this that breaks in the mainstream press, consumer confidence about their details being safe is eroded. Confidence [in online transactions] has been building up, and I think will continue to, but this is a blip. It could be a little step back,” he added.
Zoe Mode’s music-based puzzle game, Chime Super Deluxe, launched on the PlayStation Network late in March.
One studio – speaking anonymously to Develop – said the network downtime has cost them thousands of pounds. Yet Curran said it would be hard to quantify revenue losses.
He also appeared convinced that the backlash against Sony has more bark than bite.
“There’s a lot of noise on the internet right now about people saying ‘oh I’ll never use PSN again etcetera’, but a lot of that is due to this ongoing rivalry between Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 fanboys, and I think a lot of these comments of abandoning PlayStation are from people that don’t have a console in the first place,” he said.
Curran’s faith in digital distribution has not been significantly affected by the PSN data scare.
‘IT GOES BEYOND PSN’
“Digital distribution is the future, and it’s awesome,” he said.
“I just think people will be a bit more hesitant to [buy content digitally] like this in the future. Not just on PSN, but on Xbox 360 and other non-game related services as well.
“I don’t think this is a case of people thinking PSN is vulnerable. This is about every single digital distribution system”.
Yesterday Sony said it shut down the PlayStation Network for seven consecutive days after a “malicious” attack on the online system.
Credit card details, user information and passwords have been compromised. The issue may affect every single PSN user, Sony said. More information can be found here.
Ed Fear, publishing producer at London-based Curve Studios, remains faithful that Sony will resolve the issue.
“I’m concerned that users will be wary of re-entering their credit card details into the system, which will likely affect PSN sales,” he said.
“Naturally, there’s an issue of the lost sales over this period where the system has been down.
“But ultimately, I think Sony will sort us and everyone else out – they’ve done a lot of work encouraging developers to PSN and they’re not going to let all that go to waste now.”
In February, Curve Studios released on PSN its distinct platform title Explodemon.
‘WE CAN HOLD OUR RELEASE BACK’
James Brooksby, the studio head at fellow UK PSN studio, Doublesix, said it was unfortunate that a service like the PlayStation Network has been out under such an unflattering light.
“It's obviously a sad turn of events,” he told Develop.
“Our colleagues at Sony have such a great games service and every day that it's down hurts the wider gaming community.
“Our studio hasn't been affected too greatly, we were just preparing a release, but we can afford to hold it back. Our sympathy goes out to the studios who've only just released a game or were due to release last week.
“My greater concern is how this will affect video game consumers behaviour across all the digital platforms, including PSN, XBLA, Steam, iTunes and the rest,” he said.
“Consumers have been more ready to purchase games and other content online, and this may rock their confidence, become a set back that affects us all.
“Of course, it's only a blip, but one that the world of digital games delivery could do without. Only time will tell.”
Sony has released an FAQ for PSN users who may be affected by the hack. That can be found here.