A tribute to Sony’s hardware engineering

Racing to review a game before a deadline is nothing unusual; that’s just kind of how it goes, really. A game like Peace Walker shows up a few days before it launches and the review embargo lifts, and we little media monkeys scramble to cover it as quickly as possible. Not my favorite way to play, especially with a game like this — it’s crammed with optional material and supplemental content — but such is life.

Much less common is a race against hardware obsolescence to review a game, but I guess that’s just the magic of Sony engineering! My PSP-2000, bought in 2007 and used only occasionally, has decided it no longer wishes to fight the good fight, and now the video system is going. It started a couple of days ago with a faint vertical band at the left side of the screen, which I just assumed was a stylistic visual element unique to Peace Walker. But then I discovered the band would appear even in the XBM and other games, and now it’s spread. So what should look like this:

…looks more like this:

So that’s pretty awesome. The visual defects are getting worse by the hour, so I’m literally rushing to finish the game while I still can.

For fun, here’s a brief history of my experience with Sony hardware over the past 13 years!

  • 1997: Bought a Sony PlayStation. Two years later it lost the ability to play FMVs and often refused to load content without the system being upended.
  • 2000: Launch-model PlayStation 2. Early in 2003, the drive door decided to jam. With Xenosaga in the drive, just to make the injury sting a little more!
  • 2004: Bought a slimline replacement PS2. These days, its controller one port tends to ignore my input and co-opt my commands with its own whims.
  • 2005: Bought a Japanese launch PSP. A year later, its Square button stopped working correctly.
  • 2006: Bought a launch PlayStation 3. It still works perfectly! I foresee this as a temporary state of affairs.
  • 2007: Picked up a PSP-2000. Yeah.

Meanwhile, my Xbox 360 (which I’ve owned for four years) still works fine. And while I’ve had some issues with the (ridiculous number of) Nintendo DS systems I’ve owned, Nintendo was happy to repair them for quickly and for free, even once they were out of warranty. I suppose that’s just what makes Sony special.

The worst part of it is, I’ll be replacing my PSP sooner or later, because even though I’m sick of wasting money on Sony’s shoddily-made hardware, there are just enough games on the way that I really, really want to play — Persona 3, Parasite Eve: The 3rd Birthday, and all those Falcom games XSeed just licensed — to make it worth my trouble. But first, I’m gonna wait around for E3 to see if maybe they announce a new PSP. Needless to say, I’m eagerly looking forward to their next generation of expensive crap that will eventually break down and force me to replace it out of pocket.

34 thoughts on “A tribute to Sony’s hardware engineering

  1. At least it’s a *stylish* video output error. I had the same problem with my PS1, as did most people. I bought it in 1996 and it started requiring being upside down by around 1998. Much of the time it just wouldn’t read game discs.

    The PS2 was, for me, the most problematic system. My 2001 model’s drive tray broke after about a year or so, requiring manual effort to close and open much of the time, and later would simply refuse to read games. In 2005 I got a replacement large PS2, and that immediately destroyed a couple of games. I traded that back to EB Games for free and got a PS2 slim that still is in good function.

    But I don’t even use the PS2 any more, since I do all my PS1-PS2 gaming on the backwards compatible 60 gb that I have. Its progressive scan output is purdy. The PS3 has been bulletproof, but not the Sixaxises. I killed one dual shock after throwing it (Dragon Age), and have loosened another Sixaxis due to my death clutch on controllers while playing.

    I lost one 360 to the red ring, and never got it back (don’t move to California in the midst of a system repair!). My PSP-Go is great, although slightly (maybe 0.5 degrees) off kilter when open, which is oddly grating.

  2. My PSP crashes when I plug the charger in mid-game, just in case the dead battery doesn’t finish me off before a save point. And this morning, the memory card decided to corrupt beyond repair. So much for getting that Dark Knight in War of the Lions.

  3. Come to think of it, it’s kinda surprising that I’ve never had any problems with any my consoles. The biggest issue I can remember is having to blow on my NES carts as a child.

    Other than that, a launch PS2 lasted me around 8 years before it finally started having trouble reading discs. Luckily, I was only playing FFXI by that time, which didn’t require a disc.

    A 360 I sold to a friend ended up with RROD a year later, but that doesn’t count.

    Odd. Now I feel like some sort of karmic console issue is going to haunt me in the near future.

  4. I’ve never had a problem with any of my consoles, Sony or otherwise. The only exception being my DS, which had a dead pixel the day I bought it.

  5. I’ve had issues with my Playstation and my Playstation 2. In both cases the laser stopped reading discs. Also in both cases I paid about $50-70 US for a new replacement laser and services (I went through an independent system repair business). That was over 10 years ago. They have worked super duper ever since. So while I was annoyed with the initial quality, I can’t really be upset about how long they’ve performed since.

  6. Why would Xenosaga being left in the PS2 be a bad thing? It was a blessing in disguise! :)

  7. Never had any issues with consoles-my launch day PS2 is STILL in daily use, with the SNES not far behind.

  8. Interesting. There seems to be a lot of issue with the PS1 not reading discs, but I didn’t have that problem. Instead, my PS1 eventually refused to recognize my controllers, in either port.

    My old SNES that I got in 1991 eventually broke down as well a few years ago after sitting on a shelf for years. It was an interesting error; every game would start and then freeze at the first text, usually on the screen that says “Copyright 1994” or whatever. The exception was Super Castlevania IV– that game had no music, but didn’t freeze until right before the first level was about to start.

  9. Thanks for making me realize that my DSi is still under warranty! My shoulder buttons just stopped working.

  10. My own PSP 2000 has also developed screen issues, I have these dark spot around the border of the screen. They don’t seem to be getting worse though, but it does make me want to get a 3000 if they don’t announce a new one at E3 (or if the new one lacks a UMD drive).

    Actually, have you tried using Component Cables with a TV, or getting them if you don’t have them? If the issue’s purely screen related then you probably won’t see it on a TV and thus can finish it off without having to worry about the screen dying on you.

  11. I’ve got a first gen PS2, PSP, and PS3. They’re all still workin’ great. I think you’ve just got bad luck Parish.

  12. My PSP’s UMD drive stopped working like, as soon as the warranty went out. It was awesome.

    And then there’s my poor PS3 which… kinda works? I don’t know, I haven’t run into anyone with the same problem as me, nor anyone who can tell me how to fix it. Me and Sony are going to fight one of these days, I swear.

  13. Of course, the only Sony system I’ve ever had a real problem with was my 60GB PS3. Cosmic reversal! Your PS3 will lead a long and happy life and never give you problems! The optical drive on mine stopped reading discs and had to be replaced. PS1, PS2, PSP – no problem.

  14. I’ve had a good track record with all my hardware. The worst I can say is that my launch DS Lite came with a dead pixel.

  15. I’ll add to the pile. My PS1 from I think ’97 still works like a champ. Played through MGS1 on it it about 3 times. My PS2 I think has decided to give up the ghost on me finally. It doesn’t read PS1 games or BluePS2 games anymore, which is a shame. Though I have no complaints it lasted for about 9 years before finally giving up the ghost. That ain’t bad.

    Not sure about my SNES. The Start/Select buttons no longer work, and the last time I tried to play Super Mario World, it wouldn’t even start:(. Oh well. Guess it’s time to just get a wii and start replacing my library with VC downloads.

  16. You too? Mine’s been doing almost the exact same thing for the last few months. It started with three vertical bands on the left side of the screen. Now it has several shifted image bands, not unlike the picture you have. Of course, given what I actually use my PSP for most of the time (PSX and other emulation), it’s not an issue, because of the location on screen, it’s very annoying. I need to get around to cracking the system open and see if I can’t reseat the ribbon cable, that may or may not help.

    Also, if you get really desperate, you could just use the component cables and tie in to a HDTV. Kind of defeats the purpose of a PlayStation _Portable_, but it would work.

  17. @Eusis: Missed your post recommending the same thing I did. Component cables should work.

    Also, it’s very rare for a SNES to actually go belly-up. Usually it’s just in need of cleaning, on either the cart or the connectors (or both). I’ve also had to replace a blown fuse on one. Don’t give up on it! Or if you do, give it to me! ;)

  18. Wow, that sentence in my first post is a tragedy. Should be “but it’s very annoying”, and I think I probably need to break that into separate sentences…

  19. @sarge. I think my problem with my SNES is actually the controllers. Anyone know of any decent “aftermarket” SNES controllers on the cheap? What about those SNES/NES/Genesis gaming consoles that are sold for about $30-50 bucks on Amazon.com? They any good?

  20. Clones are pretty decent. They work with most games, with some small issues here and there. Two I’ve seen are the FC Twin and the Retro Duo. They allow hooking up old SNES controllers as well, which is a plus. I’ve not personally used one, though.

    You might actually be able to crack your controllers open and clean the contacts a bit, though. It might buy you a little longer on them.

    Also, EBay could net you some new controllers for pretty cheap. There are apparently rubber contact parts, as well, although I’d probably just get an all-new controller at that point.

  21. I’m in kind of a similar situation, actually. My 3000, which I got less than a year ago, decided the other day that the X button just isn’t important, and started acting like it was constantly being pushed down. That lasted about a day before it apparently fixed itself (knock on wood) so now I’m powering through Hexyz Force because I have to get a review written before everything goes to hell again.

  22. @parish: You could wait for the inevitable no show from Sony on a new PSP, but I would also recommend keeping an eye on Dell.com’s deals. They sometimes sell the PSP 3000 Core system for as little as $129-139 either with instant savings or a coupon.

  23. I’ve never had a single system crap out on me, from any company. I must be exceedingly lucky!

    Granted, I traded in my PS2 phat the day the slim released…

  24. On a related note, due to the change in the control scheme for Peace Walker, I won’t have to physically destroy my PSP like I almost did with Portable Ops.

  25. Hey, wasn’t the PSP the gaming system that was so perfect it was designed by God himself? Or at least that’s what Sony said. About a year or so before they started telling you $599 is perfectly affordable and you’re just too dern lazy to get a second job.

  26. @ jrc

    I recommend the Retro Duo. I purchased one to replace my 1988 NES (which is now a shelf ornament) and it works great. It plays every NES and SNES game that I have put into it (including the Super FX chip games). It also plays some of the usually-clone-incompatible NES games. The picture and sound are almost as good as the original NES/SNES.

    As far as the topic goes, the only retro system that I’ve had problems with was the usual toaster NES problems. I could’ve bought a new connector, but it was easier to pick up the Retro Duo.

    I had to replace my original DS for some reason that I can’t remember. The left shoulder button stopped working on my DS Lite. My slim PS3 started freezing two weeks after I purchased it, so I just took it back to the store and got another one.

    I’m fortunate that I’ve never had a console problem outside of a warranty (other than the DS Lite that my son dropped, but that was user damage so it doesn’t count). My launch SNES & N64 & Game Boy still run like champs and my GameCube never had any issues.

  27. I’ve only ever had problems with Sony hardware, well until my 360 RROD’ed two months ago but at least MS fixed it for free despite it being over 6 months out of warrantee no questions asked.

    My PS1 no longer reads discs but it did last me absolutely ages
    My first PS2 bit the dust after 2 years with the dreaded disc read error. My second PS2 I made sure I got the Hard disk exploiton it to save the laser wearing but I’m still afraid to play PS1 games on it.

    My PS3 and PSP-1000 are still working though although I hardly ever turn on the PSP 1000 (the controls and battery life or lack there of really annoy medespite some excellent games on it) and the PS3 was barely on until recently when some games worthturning the 360 off for turned up.

  28. I’ve gone through THREE regular Xboxs and two Xbox 360s. My current one is currently slowly dying as well; the graphics flicker and it occasionally refuses to read discs.

    My Wii also makes a really grating noise when it’s reading a disc now, though. Maybe it’s me.

    My brother’s treated his PSP like crap and it still works fine, though granted it gets used once every six months (if that).

  29. I’ve not had TOO many issues with my Sony hardware, I suppose. My PS1 is great, but it was one of the 9000-series, so all the kinks had pretty much been worked out by then. I also have a later-era phat PS2 that just now exhibited some reading issues with CD media. Popped it open and cleaned it up, and it’s working fine again. But then, there’s my PSP now. And I’ve run into quite a few dead PS2s that I scavenge for parts.

    I’m on my second XBox. The first was a preowned from GS that never really worked right (bad Thomson DVD drive), and eventually the mobo crapped out. The second one’s still going strong, though. I’m on my 2nd 360 as well. First one, despite a decided lack of use, decided to cut out on me a little more than a year after purchase. Thankfully, Best Buy’s replacement plan ended up hooking me up with an Elite which is still (fingers crossed) going strong.

    Not a single problem with any of my Nintendo hardware, I’m happy to say.

  30. All consoles are problem-prone for the simple reason that manufacturers are forced to use cheap parts. The PS3, which at launch cost $500 less than the cheapest blue-ray player at the time, was lambasted for being too expensive. At the same time, it’s an incredibly sophisticated computer and media center that only cost a few hundred bucks, which is a steal.

    Is it so surprising that they use cheap gears on the disc drive, or shoddy HDMI ports? Not really. I don’t think it has much to do with the engineering.

    The one exception is Nintendo, and this is largely because they use older technology, which costs less to start with and is more reliable.

  31. Thing is, in a lot of ways, until recently, Nintendo has been cutting-edge. The Gamecube was a beast of a platform compared to the PS2, and other than physical storage, could easily hold its own with the XBox. The N64 was a technical marvel at the time, and the SNES was a very, very powerful system when compared to its contemporaries. They just seem to have a better track record (other than oddities with the front-loading NES, but even those are easily rectified).

Comments are closed.