Three sad things Sony did this weekend

1. The new Playstation Vita will only permit one account per device. Preventing people from conveniently switching accounts thereby makes it harder to switch between accounts established in different regions, which have different releases and prices. Also, Sony recently added additional DRM restrictions to games: you can only play them on 2, instead of 5 different consoles. You are allowed to take a game to one (1) friend's house. [Kotaku]

2. Despite buying out its failed joint-venture with Sony-Ericsson, Sony will be not be ditching the brand until later next year. Say what you want about RIM, at least it's prepared to write off inventory that it can't sell.

3. It tried to bully journalists who attended screenings of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo into not writing about it before the embargo, even though one of them has already broken it. Which, of course, turns the original offender, The New Yorker, into the recipient of a post facto exclusive. [Deadline]


  1. Man, I am so not a fan of the MAFIAA, but when a reporter attends a screening of a movie where all the attendees are asked not to publish reviews until a certain date, and every reporter but that one honors the request, it’s hard to accept your frame of what happened.

    What happened here was that that one reporter screwed all the other reporters.  It’s a testament to how much Hollywood is hated that anyone could imagine framing this story in any other way.

        1. miss scarlet, you seem to have the vapors. However are we to be civilized when hollywood reporters stoop so. 

          Next thing you know they’ll be phone hacking and obnoxious photographers following power-couple’s newborns around their pre-schools.

          1. Ah, I see your point.   However, I think you missed mine.   Whether or not Hollywood reporters tend to be trustworthy is not in question.   The evidence we have says that except for one person, everyone who was in this particular auditorium did in fact keep their word.   We have no additional evidence one way or another as to their practice of ethics, so we may safely constrain our inquiry to this particular question.

            The question, then, is whether it is the unethical behavior that was improper, or whether it was the response to the unethical behavior that was improper.   If it were not a Hollywood studio sanctioning the unethical behavior, I think it’s unlikely that anyone would have concluded that the sanction was the problem; most, I think, would, like me, conclude that the unethical behavior was the problem, and that the sanction was proper and justified.

          2. The deal with embargoes is that they end when anyone breaks it, so long as you stick to information revealed by the embargo-breaker. Anything beyond this is some kind of bullshit pseudo-NDA enforced by gatekeeping.

          3. The studio letter says that reviewers “agreed in writing to withhold reviews until closer to the date of the film’s worldwide release date.” Do those agreements also explicitly state that the embargo is off once the someone breaks it or that just common practice?

          4. When you agree to something, you should keep your agreement unless there is some overriding reason not to.   If you do not keep your agreement, you are behaving unethically. 

            All this chatter about embargoes, and how they end, is completely orthogonal.   You aren’t criticizing Sony for requesting an embargo on reviews prior to a certain date: you are criticizing them for punishing a reporter who broke the embargo.

            In fact, if your point were that Sony shouldn’t have any such embargo, I would tend to agree in principle: I think that people should be able to find out whether a movie sucks before they pay to go see it.   But Sony isn’t obligated to help us to achieve that end, and it’s bizarre to suggest that they should.

            The right way to solve this problem is to go to the first public showing, and immediately post your review so that people who want to see the show that weekend can be informed in a timely fashion.   That way you aren’t taking favors from Sony, and you aren’t breaking your word either.

            People who aren’t willing to wait for the initial buzz on a movie then pay the price for their wish to be first.   I really don’t see a problem with this mechanism that requires fixing—this is how movie reviews work now, and you see evidence of this in the speed with which bad movies drop out of theaters and get released on DVD.

          5. Correction: you are criticizing them for the original embargo.   Sorry for misrepresenting what you said.   However, in any case my point stands that Sony isn’t obligated to pre-screen movies, and they are entirely within their rights to ask people to agree to whatever ridiculous terms they want before allowing them in to the screening.

            Referring to this as bullying seems absurd to me. I know what bullying feels like, thank you very much.

          6. Right. What this situation has created is a ‘bare truth shines through’ moment for the mechanics of what you describe: early access in exchange for a specific restriction on coverage.

            It’s common practice, when nothing is signed, that embargoes evaporate when someone breaks one. This is because the information is public; you are, in effect, no longer sourcing the information to the embargo-imposer but to the embargo-breaker.  

            When these agreements are signed, however, in a form such as an NDA, trouble always lies around the corner. You’ve agreed not to report something even if the public knows about it! You are one flapping set of lips away from having to justify the control you have ceded to the people you write about.

            If someone breaks, as has happened here, then the other reporters are in the horrible position of being incapable of talking about something even though people *never* party to the agreement are free to do so.

            All they’ve done by signing the agreement is ensure that if the embargo is broken, they’re the last people who can talk about it.

            Now they’ve been exposed, the reporters have no choice but to collectively follow the embargo-breaker’s suit. 

            If they do so collectively, Sony can’t use the threat of losing  access to early screenings to bully individual reviewers.

            Besides, no matter what they do, early screenings aren’t just a privilege for reviewers. It’s an important pre-release marketing tactic. The implied threat of banning reviewers from them is a bluff.

          7. it’s not that I misunderstand your point, I am reacting primarily to your apparent surprise at the depravity. 

    1. My decision not to buy any more of their products at that point just keeps getting validated. (Old analog HD RP TV just keeps chugging along though. They did make good hardware.)

    2. I have no doubt there’s a PR firm with a substantial annual budget whose task is simply to beat the anti-Sony drum, to get drones to parrot the most feeble of complaints against a competitor named Sony. How else to explain why something that happened back when CDs were popular – back when the current generation of downloaders were still in diapers – remains in the forefront of Xbox fans minds? Keeping that wave of paranoia and hostility alive allows otherwise honest writers to hear about a film review embargo and think that it is so strange and unusual that only an evil company like Sony would ever do such a thing… You’re being played, Rob. Good drone.

      1. That’s because some of us have an attention span longer than a gnat, or are simply old enough to have children.  For us, 2005 is recent memory.  For us, one can draw a direct unbroken line from Sony’s actions then to their actions today.

        Grow up.

        1. Or you could go further and notice that Sony led the invention of the CD, and their SonyWalkman  led to the iPod, etc. A direct unbroken line indeed.

  2. That first one indicates Sony’s strong commitment to region coding and other anti piracy measures that have been irrelevant for at least ten years now. This company used to be not bad, but it’s now misstep after misstep.

  3. I don’t see how the third one makes your list. I thought embargoed news releases were fairly common (I know the famous general-science journal Nature does them, for example, so that reporters can have a little time to read up on the background, contact sources, and create their report before the paper they’re reporting on actually goes to press). I don’t know much about movie reviewing, but I’d heard of embargoed screenings before, and assumed they were fairly normal practice. Heck, Andrew Collins told a story about an instance (a Twilight film, iirc) in which professional movie reviewers were asked to sign a consent form agreeing that until the embargo date they would not only keep mum about their reactions to the film but would even keep it secret that they had seen the film.

    1. I think the problem is that after the embargo was broken that Sony continued to enforce it on the other reporters and in effect rewarded the original embargo breaker.

    2. Actually film embargo isn’t as common as it is in a lot of other industries.  Usually the film maker has press screenings that are on the same day all across the country so there is no need for embargo.  This was a special circumstance where these reviewers where given a special screening because they moved up their voting on the awards they give out so they would be the first awards of the season.

      Because they where the only critics in the nation to get a special screening, Sony took the unusual step of forcing an embargo until the nation wide press screenings. As a side note it appears that the original embargo breaker has been banned from Sony press screenings.

  4. Requiring a factory reset to change accounts on the Vita might be a v1.0 firmware limitation, and not a policy decision.

    Also, the 2 consoles per PSN account does not apply to the US. US is still five.

  5. It’s worth mentioning that the second part of item 1 appears to affect only downloaded games, and not physical copies.  Granted, this is one more reason not to buy games by download: we’ve already got that you can’t resell the game, ever, and that they rarely go on sale, while physical copies drop in price all the time.  Of course, you don’t need to have a physical copy around, and can’t scratch the disk, either.

    That being said, I find myself upset at them over this move.  They’ve already gotten rid of the ability to resell, and made it hard to share.  As far as I’M concerned, if these days all I get to do is license the right to USE software, and never get to own it, then I should be able to use it as often as I want.  If I can only use it on one machine at a time, fine, but it absolutely shouldn’t matter what machine that is.If they want people to pay more, maybe they should provide more?  Very few download games have had the value, imo, of a physical disk game I could get for the same price.  And now, we see that they care more about ‘piracy’ than value for money, even when the goods are most certainly not being pirated!

  6. Surely Sony must realize that portable gaming consoles are basically dead in the post-smartphone era? Why on earth would they put extra restrictions on a device that people are going to be hesitant to buy anyway when they can download games for their existing gadgets for 99 cents apiece?

  7. I feel so strange even starting to think of Microsoft as the smart and innovative company in the gaming market.  Somehow they have overcome the RROD and HDDVD to become the better company.  Meanwhile sony just seems to be diveing headfirst into the suck.

      1. Except for the repeated problems where they take your money for a gift and then won’t let the gift recipient get the gift – instead deleting the gift license and hiding from the gift-buyer that everything has failed.

        They’re acceptably cool in many ways, but they certainly like money evaporating quietly into the ether.

  8. Not to mention the dam epilespy warning on EVERY startup. Please God, let me just check a box and get rid of that thing. I’ll swear on the Bible to take every precaution necessary to protect myself from the dangers of flashing lights.

  9. Have not bought a Sony product since the rootkit CD protection fiasco in 2005.  Quit buying TurboTax in 2003 when they were hiding DRM bits in the boot sector.

    Companies like this bank on consumers having short memories. I don’t forget that easily.

  10. From the info at this link:

    Note that the embargo is/was until Dec. 13 for a movie opening on December 21.  It’s not a matter of keeping the review out of sight until it’s too late to be of use, it’s (on that point of view) an agreement for the benefit of all the other reviewers, so they don’t have to rush it out to get the jump on others.  But there’s even more interesting stuff at that link; there’s enough silliness to go around.

  11. Bully journalists?

    I suggest reading their letter in the link – very polite, I’d say.

    “By allowing critics to see films early, at different times, embargo dates level the playing field and enable reviews to run within the films’ primary release window, when audiences are most interested. As a matter of principle, the New Yorker’s breach violates a trust and undermines a system designed to help journalists do their job and serve their readers.”

    In the rather intelligently titled article. “Deadline HollywoodSo What If David Denby Broke Sony/Scott Rudin’s ‘Dragon Tattoo’ Embargo? Fuck It!”  How quaint.

  12. Don’t forget, Sony also announced that they will be introducing a new proprietary memory card format for the Vita and charge exorbitant prices for it.

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