For my birthday a couple weeks ago, Adam surprised me with a brand new PlayStation 3. I'm not really much for consoles, but I have wanted to check out LittleBigPlanet for a while, so both of them together was a nice gift, even if I suspect it won't see a whole lot of use. Whilst browsing things on it, I recalled another title I heard about months ago which seemed interesting: Flower, an ambient/atmospheric game available for purchase on the PlayStation Store that has you taking control of the wind, ushering seeds and flower petals around in a beautifully rendered landscape. Having seen videos of the game on YouTube and hearing rave reviews from friends, the game seemed intriguing and I eagerly added cash to my account to buy it. At twelve AUD it wasn't a big bank-buster, so I bought the game and set about downloading it. This was on the 27th, which I can verify by the confirmation email I received when I added funds to my PlayStation account to finance the purchase.
What has happened next has really annoyed the hell out of me. In conjunction with Flower I bought Fat Princess for Adam; the latter downloaded and installed first, being a smaller file, and then the console began downloading Flower. As soon as it started to install, once the progress indicator hit 14% the installation would end with an error code #80029564. Perplexing, I went to Google to figure out what this meant, getting a wide range of possible causes from a busy server to a corrupted machine. The latter I didn't think likely, since the console wasn't even more than a week old, but busy server could be possible. Thus, I tried to redownload it again at a less-prime time (for both the US and Australia, just to be safe), but had no further luck. I followed various suggestions online from downloading it in the background, not downloading it in the background, resetting the machine first, deleting various files then attempting the download again, burning sage over the machine while it installed, even doing the hardcore factory reformat of the console that took four hours to complete; no matter what I tried, the game never installed past the 14% mark.
Obviously I tried other files; every other demo installed correctly (I didn't want to risk paying for another game that I couldn't install). I briefly wondered if file size might have something to do with it, since Flower clocked in at almost 700 megs while Fat Princess and the other demos came in much less than that; eventually I found a free demo that was similar in file size to Flower and that, too, downloaded and installed with no problems. By this point it was apparent to me that there was an issue with Flower itself, a deduction strengthened by my discovery that the identical problem was afflicting others as well.
Out of ideas and against my better judgment I called Sony support. I suspected that they wouldn't be able to help much– the issue wasn't affecting everyone, as I had friends who were able to install it fine, and friends who had the same problem as I did. I've also dealt with tech support people enough to know that the suggestions they were going to level at me were along the lines of making sure I had plugged the PS3 into a power outlet before I attempted to install anything. Nevertheless I called, explained the situation and the exhaustive list of fixes I'd attempted on my own, and waited for the inevitable lack of help. This was on Monday.
The first person I spoke with immediately blamed it on the machine. When a problem is reproducible with the same game, and all other games work fine, that's not a problem with the console. That's a software issue. If I had been unable to download or install anything, I might find the console suggestion to be plausible. That was not the case, but he refused to see any other possibilities. I thanked him, hung up, then called back a bit later initially intending to just ask for a refund. I got someone else who was significantly more helpful (and eerily sounded identical to the voice actor who plays Alistair on Dragon Age) and after going through a checklist of stuff he said he would be escalating the issue to a supervisor to look at. While I finally received an email earlier telling me that they were unable to reproduce the issue, the game still fails to install for me so I'm back at square one.
I think my frustration is justified. I don't want my money back, I want to play the game. I don't think it's unreasonable to be miffed that a week after I've purchased something I still can't play it because of errors outside of my control. I don't understand why it's not working and nobody who I would expect to be qualified to figure that out does either. While I can understand that it's tricky to deduce since this issue doesn't seem to affect everyone across the board, it's irritating to speak with two customer service reps who downplay the prevalence of the problem; I offered to email the first person a link to the forum thread discussing this, which he declined. He wouldn't even take me up on my invitation to search online for other widespread similar problems: the 14% issue seems to affect other games as well other than Flower, with nobody figuring out a way to fix it other than it clearing up on its own– or the customer gave up trying. Adding to my annoyance is the fact that this is a pretty big file that won't install and we have limited bandwidth caps here in Australia. Each time I go to see if it's working finally, I have to download the file entirely from scratch. This has been eating through our allotment to an annoying degree.
This technical calamity is one of the downsides of the fact that consoles are mostly just computers themselves these days, connected to the internet just like desktop machines and running complicated operating systems (hell, the original Xbox ran a customized variation of Windows in the first place) to manage all the extraneous parts of the system. Consoles are much more than popping a disc in and pressing on, and as a result there are many more points of failure. Still, if this was a problem over a free demo I wouldn't really care; but this is a game I purchased, which I would like to play, and as a good chunk of the titles on PSN are from smaller indie developers (like the similar offerings on Xbox Live's marketplace), these sort of outages ultimately will affect them directly.
15 February 2010 – 9:28 PM: