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Some PS3 Owners Say Firmware Killed Their Blu-ray

30 Sep, 2009 By: Chris Tribbey

Sony Computer Entertainment America’s (SCEA) latest firmware updates for its PlayStation 3 gaming system offered cosmetic redesigns and were intended to improve user navigation and profile information.

But an increasing number of PS3 owners, mostly those with 60GB launch players, are saying the 3.0 and 3.01 updates had a disastrous side effect: it disabled the Blu-ray Disc player.

Those complaining about the firmware say that after the upgrade — which SCEA offers as a direct download to PS3s connected to the Internet — their systems would no longer recognize any Blu-ray Disc games or movies. Some say the systems still recognize DVDs. Others say the firmware killed all disc functionality.

Dan Lawlor, a 36-year-old IT consultant from Charlotte, N.C., is one of the PS3 owners who says SCEA’s firmware broke his PS3, as well as those of two other people he knows. He is one of many consumers posting about the problem on Web sites, signing petitions, complaining to the Better Business Bureau, and even helping to start Web sites about the problem, including ps3circleofdeath.com.

“We are now staring at well over $2,100 worth of hardware that was purchased at launch [purchased by himself and his friends], at a premium, to have the ‘best’ PS3 that Sony made. Worthless. All rendered useless by a firmware update that pushes these early launch systems beyond their original intended parameters,” he said.

Lawlor said he believes SCEA didn’t test the effect the new firmware update would have on older PS3s.

“The firmware update that was intended to decrease Blu-ray Disc read times by speeding up the motor and spindle, is causing an increased power draw,” he said. “This is fine for the newer systems made with 60nm [nanometer] and 45nm chipsets that use less power and therefore create less heat.

“But for the older, original 90nm chips, that already ran towards the hot side to begin with, it’s fatal. Too much power draw creates too much heat and leads to overheating and failure. It’s blatantly obvious to anyone who has worked with computers and laptops.”

Lawlor said a SCEA customer service representative told him that the firmware update had nothing to do with the hardware failure. He and other consumers complaining about the firmware have been told by SCEA that they can pay $150 to have their system fixed, he said.

That’s what Greg Cowtan, a 36-year-old software engineer from Oshawa, Ontario, Canada ended up doing, even though he maintains it was SCEA’s fault.

“I think they should give consumers an option to trade in their systems, or send them in to get them fixed for free, like Microsoft did with the Xbox,” he said. Cowtan referred to the widespread hardware failure problem for the competing Xbox 360, dubbed the “red ring of death.” In mid-2007, Microsoft acknowledged the problem, extended the warranties on the systems, and let consumers send in their systems to be fixed for free.

“Either someone [at SCEA] is in a bunch of trouble, or they knew it was going to happen and went ahead because it would only affect a few thousand consumers,” Cowtan continued. “I think someone over there made a mistake, a very big one.”

A SCEA spokeswoman said she was not aware of the problem, while Patrick Seybold, SCEA senior director of corporate communications and social media, posted in a PS3 Web site blog that the company was aware of “isolated issues” with the 3.0 firmware update.

“Rest assured that we are looking into the matter and will provide an update here as soon as possible,” he wrote. “We apologize for any inconvenience, as it’s our mission to deliver the best consumer experience on all PlayStation platforms.”

Andy Parsons, SVP of corporate communications and new product planning for Pioneer and chair of the Blu-ray Disc Association promotion committee in the United States, said the horror stories from some PS3 owners shouldn’t dissuade Blu-ray player owners from upgrading their firmware, which is often needed to access certain Blu-ray movie features, and in the PS3’s case, play games online and access other game features.

“Only Sony can comment on the PS3 question of course, but from an overall point of view, we believe firmware updates are well worth installing on all players that offer them,” he said. “The BDA in fact has encouraged consumers to check our Web site frequently for links to manufacturer firmware updates, since we strongly believe that it’s important to ensure that innovative features on new titles will operate correctly on existing players. Many studios have even included instructions to this effect in some of their newer releases.”

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