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Sony is still an online king - whether PlayStation Network is down or not

Opinion: Tom Pakinkis urges Sony to come back fighting...

You can just see it can't you? A circle of Sony execs sitting silently with their heads on the boardroom table.

One of them begins to weep ever so gently. He got done for an out of date tax disc that morning, his wife (bless her) pointed out he was putting on weight just before he left the house and now... this. The confirmation that the PlayStation Network has been hacked to within an inch of its life by some faceless cyber-sleuth who potentially made off with the personal information of 77 million loyal fans.

Tubsy raises his head as if it's encased in concrete and manages, between sniffs, to splutter the words: "Is there any chance...they'll think...we're the victim... in all of this?"

'Fraid not ol' chum. Sony's slipping fast down Diarrhoea River and the only paddle on board is that right hand of yours. Best dig deep.

The hacking of the PlayStation Network and subsequent fallout has been nothing short of catastrophic for Sony in terms of PR, logistical and financial cost - and the final damage assessment is still pending with the platform holder not yet back on dry land.

If you were to saunter into that boardroom and tell the mournful that Sony Online Entertainment would lose the details of a further 24.6 million customers barely a week later, it would have been foetal positions all round.

Zoom

It's a massive blow for PlayStation and Sony, especially as the company seems to be forever on the back foot in the opinion polls when it comes to online gaming - having to stand next to the gamer's golden boy Xbox Live with its fancy cross-game chat. Sure PSN is free, but that argument will fall flat following the hacks; free, yes, but 77 million users will tell you it's not exactly costless.

You might ask what exactly Sony has left in its online canon? Why should anyone tentatively log back on to the PSN for any other reason than necessity?

If you ask me, the future ain't so bleak - and there's far more to Sony's cyber-service than the platform it's launched from. In fact, I'll even stick my thumbs on the line and say that it's Sony exclusive properties that are making the boldest moves forward online.

Think about it: It's Sony Online Entertainment that has brought the much-loved MMO genre to consoles successfully. Okay so the massive hack is a bit of a black cloud over SOE at the moment, I'll hold my hands up there, but DC Universe Online is a first and one that seems to be sustaining itself nicely even if it pales in comparison to the likes of World of Warcraft. You only need to look as far APB to know just how wrong it could have gone.

Then there's M.A.G, which is innovative as a concept alone. A first-person online shooter that supports 256 players at a time? Crazy talk, surely? It had never been done before on these humble bedroom boxes and there's no indication that it will be done again any time soon. Yet, while M.A.G is admittedly a bit overwhelming for some, a bit unbalanced at times and hardly holding a candle to certain pair of FPS titles, it has built up a strong, if not dominant, following and is here for the long-haul.

By far the most successful slice of online innovation for Sony, though, has been the creation of the 'Play, Create, Share' mantra, which spawned in the garden of Media Molecule for LittleBigPlanet and was the difference between a mediocre platformer and a revolution in online community that made every PlayStation 3 user a game designer.

The same concept has since been rolled out to a whole host of different games from ModNation Racers to Motorstorm Apocalypse and, most recently, inFamous 2 where players will be designing levels in a triple A title with real game of the year potential and integrating them directly into an rich open-world.

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