The PlayStation 4 has a little problem, maybe you’ve heard. How little — or not so little — remains to be seen, and for now, all we have are the anecdotal claims of message board goers and grouchy one-star reviewers. But this much is certain: Sony boss Shuhei Yoshida — last seen by yours truly live-streaming a Contrast play session from his New York hotel room through a PS4 and Ustream — took to Twitter last Thursday to claim the problem impacted a trifling number of the company’s new consoles.
Be assured we are investigating reported PS4 issues. The number is very small compared to shipped, we believe they are isolated incidents.—
Shuhei Yoshida (@yosp) November 14, 2013
The issue, if you haven’t experienced it yourself, manifests as video failing to output from the PS4 — there’s no apparent signal to the TV at all — and instead of the system’s customary white powered-up light glowing from along the console’s wraparound crevice, the system pulses a deep blue (in some cases until the system inexplicably powers off).
Sony issued the following statement shortly after Yoshida’s tweet, first listing the number affected as 0.04%, then ousting a misplaced zero to read 0.4%.
A handful of people have reported issues with their PlayStation 4 systems. This is within our expectations for a new product introduction, and the vast majority of PS4 feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We are closely monitoring for additional reports, but we think these are isolated incidents and are on track for a great launch.
There have been several problems reported, which leads us to believe there isn’t a singular problem that could impact a broader percentage of systems. The number of affected systems represents less than 0.4 percent of shipped units to date, which is within our expectations for a new product introduction.
Videos of systems exhibiting the error are all over YouTube: Search for “PS4 blue light” and you’ll turn up the usual mix of articulate demonstration videos, semi-coherent screeds and unhinged tantrum-throwing. You have to sympathize with the politer folks, who after all probably spent between $500 and $600 on the new system, accessories and one or more games (add another $200 for those who picked up a PS Vita for Remote Play). That’s not cool.
A Sony support rep posted a troubleshooting guide on the company’s official forums this weekend. In it, Sony says the pulsing blue light could indicate errors with any of the following:
- TV compatibility
- Issues with PS4 power supply
- Issues with PS4 hard drive
- Issues with other PS4 hardware
Most of what follows in the post is common sense, but some of it isn’t, like updating your TV’s firmware, or scrutinizing your connector cables for damage (Kotaku, for instance, discovered that a PS4 it thought had the problem was in fact suffering from a bent HDMI port). Sony offers additional troubleshooting steps for hard drive issues and software installation problems (requiring a boot to Safe Mode, where among other things, you can initialize the system). If none of those things does the trick, Sony advises contacting customer support and suggests using its Live Chat interface instead of making a phone call to cut down on wait times.
Product launches never happen without a certain percentage of device failures. I had a minor issue with my own preliminary PS4 at Sony’s review event related to the system’s optical drive, an apparent one-off that caused the audio during cutscenes to drop randomly and the system to hang indefinitely (no one else has reported this — Sony’s SWAT team descended to abscond with the malfunctioning unit, replaced the system, and I’ve had no troubles since). If you picked up an iPhone 5s, you’ve probably read about ScuffGate. Owners of the iPhone 4 doubtless remember AntennaGate. A certain number of devices will always have problems, whether cosmetic or functional, during any consumer tech launch.
The question rolling forward is going to be whether we’re really below that 0.4% of shipped units. Of the one million systems Sony says it sold within a day of launch, 0.4% would be in the vicinity of 4,000 units. That adds up to $1.6 million worth of system spend in retail terms.
One thing you probably shouldn’t do is take random advice from strangers, or even well-meaning friends. I remember reading about people stuffing their Xbox 360’s in towels when the red ring of death was driving mystified owners into frenzies. Armchair troubleshooters often correlate a symptom with a behavior where no real correlation exists (and, in the process, can wind up doing more harm than good). If you’re among the afflicted, it’s best to scan Sony’s troubleshooting steps, give them a shot, and if they don’t help, either contact Sony support for further assistance or the place you bought your PS4 and queue up an exchange.