One Name is Never Enough - Why Sony Should Leave PSN Name Changes Alone
Fortunately, when the PlayStation 3 and its accompanying service, the PlayStation Network came along, I was already old. So I picked a PSN Name that was in-sync with where I was heading with my gamer-brand. But some people weren't and some people didn't. I've watched this whole issue about PSN names from a software and systems engineering perspective, as well as from a business analysis and customer care standpoint. Each of those perspectives has yielded the same view: that this whole thing is a debacle in the most poignant sense of the term. The solution that Sony is working towards is no better. You can read the direct quote from the PlayStation Blog here:
"This feature is compatible with PS4 games originally published after April 1, 2018, and a large majority of the most-played PS4 games that were released before this date. However, please note not all games and applications for PS4, PS3 and PS Vita systems are guaranteed to support the online ID change, and users may occasionally encounter issues or errors in certain games. If for any reason you experience issues after changing your ID, you can revert back to your original ID for free at any time (you will only be able to revert once during the preview program). Reverting back to an old ID will resolve most issues caused by the ID change."
- Games published after 01 April 2018, that matter, pretty much means just God of War, Spider-Man, and Red Dead Redemption 2. There isn't much mileage in this now, and there will not be that much more by Q1 of 2019 when the implementation gets rolled out to everyone
- Issues or errors is left deliberately vague. My own read is that it means the impact could be inaccessibility of a game save or inability to access multiplayer features. But without definitions and caveats, it could also mean that the issues could be destructive. Complete loss of access to a game-save, or a complete loss of online microtransaction-purchased content. Hopefully Sony, or the game dev or publisher will get around to pointing out for people exactly what the risks are.
But even if it's not destructive, you're going to be given ONE chance to make a choice to stick with our new PSN name or revert back, either of which could result in a loss of progress or access to a game's content. And it's wholesale; you cannot be addressed as your new PSN name by one game and your legacy name by another. So making this choice at some point, either way, is going to mean triaging which games in your library you actually care about and which ones don't matter to you, and you'll start your campaigns over in the latter case. Of course, as Sony says, you might revert back and that might resolve "most issues" caused by the name change, but not necessarily all. You might revert back, it may not address all of your issues, and you'll be stuck with MysogynistPig2012 forever.
This is the kind of partial solution that does not fix people's problems, and places many at risk, which could result in a a flurry of customer support calls and could incite a lot of negative press and customer sentiment. It would have been better if Sony had not implemented this at all. Sure, there's a chance that all kinks will be worked out in the test period this fall. But given how spaghettied Sony has always and continues to indicate the root-problem code is, I highly doubt it. I cannot fathom why would roll out a "solution" that is riddled with this many caveats, will be confusing for users, and comes off as having many possible results that may be uncontrollable and are unpredictable.
The other possibility, however, is that this just doesn't matter and Sony is banking on that. The demographic for PSN Players that actually have this need might be much smaller than the vocal internet minority and Greg Miller have led the world to perceive. And those that get bitten by some of the chicanery that may be involved with how this plays out will be but a ripple on the pond. Regardless, it continues to be an interesting case study in things not to do in systems implementation and how to manage the resultant blowback. I'm excited to see how it ends, bad or good. -