Last updated: April 26, 2011 10:49 am

Sony uncertain on return of games network

Sony has admitted it does not know when its PlayStation network will be back online, five days after a hacking incident forced the company to take the gaming system down.

The Japanese electronics group said last week that it had shut the network after discovering it had been hacked and, on Monday, said it did not know when the security improvements required to restart the network, which has more than 70m users, would be in place.

It declined to answer questions on the matter.

The majority of the network’s members use the free version to play against people online but up to 2m pay $49 a year for a premium version including access to test editions of forthcoming titles.

Some of those people commented online that they were worried that their credit card information was vulnerable to the hackers.

The security breach is likely to hurt Sony’s brand image and could drive gamers to Microsoft’s paid Xbox Live, analysts said.

However, the damage would be limited, provided Sony got the network back up within a few days.

“Most people are realistic about it,” said Michael Pachter, a Wedbush game industry analyst. “It is hard for anyone with the free service to complain.”

The Sony shutdown came as Amazon completed its recovery from the failure of its cloud computing system. Amazon’s cloud offering for businesses went down after a crash on Thursday at a US data centre and, on Monday some customers were still not able to update their websites.

The disruption brought wide attention after it took down customers including news aggregator Reddit and social networks Foursquare and Quora. Amazon has said little about the cause, beyond ascribing it to a “networking event” that triggered a cascade of backing-up that made the problem worse.

Some analysts said Amazon customers who had followed industry best practices would not have been knocked offline or would have recovered quickly, but others took the failure as a sign that cloud computing was still not ready for mass adoption.

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