Sony Says "Sorry" About Glitch in PlayStation2

First Sony made the PlayStation 2, a $370 "gaming console." Then users discovered that it could play Digital Versatile Discs from all regions, a clear violation of DVD Forum engineering specifications intended to accommodate the entertainment industry's longstanding policy of releasing films on video at different times in different parts of the world—after they've run in commercial theaters. Shortly thereafter, users also found that they could make perfect videotape copies of DVDs via the RGB outputs on the machine, thereby circumventing Macrovision, the copy-prevention technique built into the DVD format. Seems the PlayStation 2 was a two-front nightmare for the film business.

Now Sony has admitted that there is little it can do to correct the situation. Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. announced Wednesday, March 29 that it can provide a "fix" for the 1.25 million machines that were sold with a software glitch that ignored region codes. The offer appears to be attracting few takers, however, and Sony is powerless to persuade PlayStation owners to bring them in. "Obviously, we'd like as many to come in as possible, but we'll have to see what the consumer reaction is," SCEI spokesman Benjamin Guernsey told Agence France Presse. "There's very little we can do. Basically, we can't go out and seek out the consumers."

The ¥39,800 ($370) PlayStation 2, advertised as the cheapest DVD player being sold in Japan, hit the market on March 4 and sold in the hundreds of thousands within the first few hours. The region-code problem was only the machine's second production error; the first was a bad batch of plug-in memory cards.

Guernsey said no one from the film industry has approached Sony for compensation about the region-code glitch. "At this point we've described the situation to them and . . . we've not received any demands for compensation. You never know what might happen in the future, but so far there's been no complaints," he said. Sony began shipping corrected versions of PlayStation 2 software on Monday, March 27. One lure for consumers is that the new utility discs promise "better audio quality."