Sony is expressing sympathy for customers frustrated by broken, brand-new PlayStation 4s but the company believes the problem is affecting relatively few gamers. A company rep told Kotaku this in response to our request for more information about the so-called "blue light of death". That error refers to a condition that keeps the PS4 from successfully connecting to TVs and that remains the one problem we're hearing about consistently from owners of faulty consoles. A proper PS4 first lights up blue, but the pulsing blue light switches to white as the machine fully boots up.
Sony did not specifically address the blue-light-only problem today.
"There have been several issues reported, which leads us to believe there isn't a singular problem that could impact a broader percentage of PS4 units," a spokesperson wrote to me over email.
"We also understand that some units were reportedly damaged during shipping. The number of affected PS4 systems is less than 1 per cent, which represents a very small percentage of total units shipped to date and is within the expected range for a new product introduction.
"We understand the frustration of consumers that have had a problem and are working with them and our retail partners to help troubleshoot issues and ensure affected units are exchanged."
Late last week, when early PS4 owners and press were reporting some hardware difficulties, the company estimated that perhaps .4 per cent of available PS4 units have had problems.
Yesterday, Sony said that the they sold 1,000,000 PlayStation 4s on the console's first day of sale. A 1 per cent error rate would affect 10,000 consoles. The ultimate failure rate for the "red ring of death" on the Xbox 360 has been estimated to be as high as 50 per cent.
On Saturday, I ran an article about the so-called "blue light of death" after receiving several emails about it from readers and after seeing lots of Tweets, YouTube videos and negative Amazon reviews written by verified purchasers. At the time, Sony's official support form offered some troubleshooting tips but no surefire fix.
Sony: "The number of affected PS4 systems is less than 1 per cent, which represents a very small percentage of total units shipped to date and is within the expected range for a new product introduction. We understand the frustration of consumers that have had a problem and are working with them and our retail partners to help troubleshoot issues and ensure affected units are exchanged."
Since that Saturday article, I've received six more emails from readers who say they've had the blue-light-only problem and four from readers who say they've had other hardware failures with the machine. (One reader, recognising that people usually only write to offer complaints, emailed to report that his system is working great.) I've also heard from two who cite a "red light of death," referring to the colour the PS4's system light switches to when the machine is overheating.
For the record, all of the PS4s being used by Kotaku staff on both sides of the U.S. are working fine, and we understand that many, many people are having no issues with the system.
Many of the readers who have emailed me have been able to exchange units for better, working ones. They also report that wait times for calling Sony customer support have been as long as two hours. One of them didn't appreciate the PS4 launch-day office party they heard in the background. Another vented frustration about trying a PlayStation console after being a long-time Xbox supporter and having been won over by Sony's strong E3 showing. Many who emailed me said that Sony's customer service reps have been friendly and sympathetic.
The Sony PR rep I've been in touch with said he's seen online rumours of customers being told they need to wait six weeks for a replacement. "Our customer support team is exchanging units with new replacements immediately and with expedited shipping," the rep said. Some of the PS4 owners who have emailed me have said that they've been given estimates of three weeks, which includes the process of having Sony send them a box to ship their faulty unit back to Sony in.
I've only heard from one PS4 owner who was able to bring their PS4 back to proper functionality after having their console fail to get past the blinking blue light. This PS4 owner said the problem happened after he updated his console to firmware 1.50 and says he took the risk (not recommended!) of unplugging his machine while it was blinking blue and plugging it back in. He says that worked. He's the only person to have given me any sign that the blue light problems can be fixed. Everyone else says they try everything and that nothing works. (This person on YouTube says he did but wasn't able to show it happen and has a method that needs a PS4 controller to be synced to the console.)
Several readers who've written to me about blue light problems say they got their consoles from Amazon. Given that Amazon is such a huge retailer, it's unclear if the problems have anything to do with them or any other one retailer. That said, I'm hoping to update this story with comments from major retailers as they come in to see if that helps further isolate issues.
Sony did not answer a question I posed to them about when they might expect to ship a new wave of units that don't have the issues of this first batch.
At this point our best advice is to follow Sony's troubleshooting tips and, if that doesn't work, assume you're going to have to exchange the unit. If/when we know more, we'll let you know.