A number of PlayStation 4 owners appear to have non-functional units that all suffer the same problem, a so-called blue light — or blue pulse — of death. We can't tell how many and assume it's a small but noteworthy minority.
The problem is being cited in scathing Amazon reviews, a trickle of Twitter complaints and a stack of videos on YouTube — as well as in more than a dozen e-mails and Tweets received by Kotaku since the console's launch on Friday.
Sony hasn't offered any official comment to Kotaku on the matter, but a representative on the official PS4 support forums did post a lengthy set of step-by-step troubleshooting tips today. That post, on a thread entitled "[INFO] Blinking Blue Light PS4 Issues," doesn't offer any surefire fix.
From what I've heard, those with this issue have found that the best solution still involves sending the unit back — either directly to Sony or to the retailer who sold it to them, if an exchange is available.
The problem that these PS4 users are facing is frustratingly simple. When a PS4 is working and is turned on with a press of the power button, the light that runs along the side of the console should first pulse blue and then switch to white. As it does, the console should send a signal to the TV it is hooked up to. Those who have the "blue light/pulse of death" are instead finding that their PS4 pulses blue, never goes to white and never sends a signal to their TV. I first heard about this problem on Wednesday from a Redditor going by the name Arogon. He'd won his PS4 in a Taco Bell contest and received it prior to launch.
You can see many examples of the blue light of death on YouTube. This one, for example:
...and this one...
...and this one...
We've presented another one in the GIF atop this post.
Sony's troubleshooting tips involve holding down the power button for seven seconds, unplugging the console and then powering it back on. The company also recommends checking the seating of the hard drive and ensuring that the firmware of the connected TV is up to date.
While I've heard from numerous people who've had the pulsing blue light problem, I've not heard from any who have been able to fix it through any simple steps.
I have, however, heard from multiple PS4 users whose systems did have problems that they could fix — those users, like us, had PS4s that had lights that went from blue to white. The scattered issues involved things like bent metal in an HDMI port and incompatibility with some non-Sony HDMI cables. The issues vary widely, as do the solutions. Screenwriter and former PC Gamer editor Gary Whitta got his blue-to-white machine working only once he added the PS4's day-one patch via a USB stick. Whitta's emotional rollercoaster was captured on Twitter, where he went from "OH SHIT UPS TRUCK" to "HAHAHAHAHAHAHA my PS4 doesn't work" to "Guys, I got it working! I'm a tech genius!" in about two hours.
The blue-light-only people are posting much angrier accounts.
The console's Amazon rating — with its more than 600 five-star reviews — has been dragged down by nearly 400 one-star reviews, many of which cite the blue light problem. A sampling:
Several people have contacted me directly after seeing my article about our own formerly-broken PS4. Our problem was simple and unrelated to the blue light thing, but I nevertheless asked for anyone who was having trouble to reach out. They did. They've mostly been frustrated by the problem, though one has said that Sony is already sending him a box for him to return his console in. And another shared an emotional rollercoaster of an adventure with me that involved first rescuing his PS4 from being delivered on a neighbour's doorstep and then, after discovering the console had the blue-light problem, rushing to a retailer that exchanged it for a working one.
On Twitter, one frustrated PS4 owner, a musician named John Beauchamp, Tweeted to me saying he was "currently stuck on blue." A day later, he Tweeted:
"After a two hour wait, a 10 minute phone conversation mostly involving address and ticket # exchange, Sony is sending me a box to ship... my DOA PS4 and they're going to ship me a brand new PS4 in return... The customer service rep I talked to was extremely reassuring, confident, and knowledgeable which was extremely nice... Also I should remind everyone with DOA's that the customer service rep on the other end is a person to who is not the cause of your problem... Well most of them aren't at least. There's always that 1%"
One of the more unexpected notes Kotaku got regarding the blue light problems was from adult film actress Alana Evans, whose NSFW Twitter feed provided yet another chronicle of the emotional journey of "blue light of death" PS4 users. Early on launch day, she tweeted "Merry Christmas to me ;)" and this picture:
90 minutes later she was tweeting: "wow! Hey @Kotaku@PlayStation My PS4 DOESN'T WORK!!!!! IT ONLY GIVES ME A BLUE LIGHT AND WONT POWER UP. I AM NOT HAPPY!" She said she checked the HDMI port. There was no bent metal. She had the blue light of death problem.
And then, the next day: "I have now been on hold another 50 mins for my third attempt at calling @Playstation. They could at least give me phone sex while I wait." Later she said that she expected to be getting a new one on Tuesday, four days after her console failed on her. She then Tweeted: "I'm not assuming anything. I WILL NOT be getting the Xbox 1 on launch. Not going thru this again."
Some people might conclude that these are the hazards of buying a console at launch. Some machines do break. Sony even told reporters prior to launch that .4% of units that had been distributed to that point had issues — that's 4 out of 1000, or 1 out of 250. That ratio may have changed. It may not have. We're only going to be hearing complaints from those whose machines failed, of course, and most of the people whose PS4s are working are unlikely to drop me a e-mails or send Tweets. Kotaku's far-flung team now have about six or so PS4s, all of which boot up just fine. We've enjoyed many games on the machine and think pretty highly of the unit and its new services. (Read our PS4 review.)
Nevertheless, the reason this issue is being referred to as a "blue light of death" is because people remember Microsoft's "red ring of death" on the Xbox 360. That hardware problem killed so many original Xbox 360s, that Microsoft eventually had to extend the warranty on the machine for three year. The fiasco cost the company an estimated $US1 billion.
There is no indication that this PS4 issue is that bad, but we'll keep an eye on it and will let you know whatever important new details we learn.