A recent firmware update for the PlayStation 3, update 3.50, was notable for the fact that it disabled several third party devices, including controllers which function via the PS3’s USB port. The reasons for this update were largely due to the recent hacking job pulled off on the PS3, carried out via a USB dongle (as detailed in another article).
Sony Spins Their Web
Sony followed this firmware update by releasing a curious consumer alert. In an apparent attempt to justify the fact that some gamers’ accessories may no longer work, they claimed that counterfeit controllers made to resemble real PlayStation 3 controllers had the potential to catch on fire or even blow up in the face of gamers. An excerpt from the consumer alert is below:
“Counterfeit PlayStation®3 Wireless Controllers, which are practically identical in appearance to genuine PlayStation®3 Wireless Controllers, have been discovered in the market. SCEA advises consumers to be cautious when buying PlayStation®3 Wireless Controllers from uncertain sources as the quality, reliability and safety of counterfeit products is uncertain, and in some cases, may be dangerous. It is possible that some counterfeit product may ignite or explode, resulting in injury or damage to the user, your PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, or other property. Moreover, SCEA does not support continued functionality of counterfeit or unlicensed controllers in system software updates and these devices may cease to function in the future because of system software updates.”
Now the first point that should be stressed is that counterfeit and unlicensed controllers are two different things. While Sony has every right to disable unlicensed controllers from working on the PS3, their only real justification for doing so according to the press release is because counterfeit controllers which were apparently just discovered now, three years into the PS3’s lifespan (and are an entirely different thing from unlicensed controllers) could explode. Not a very plausible explanation or justification for disabling them. In addition, it’s not just unlicensed peripherals which have been disabled by this update, but numerous licensed third party peripherals also seem to have gone belly up, including controllers and other devices.
Controllers Only the Taliban Could Love
But let’s even forget all that and move on to these exploding controllers. Now there are two facets to this, can a controller actually explode, and has a controller actually exploded. Technically a battery can explode, most likely to occur if the lithium ion battery doesn’t contain a circuit to shut the battery down when it’s drastically overheating, so any battery powered controller could explode, though whether the battery explosion would be serious enough to cause the entire controller to explode, potentially damaging the user is up for debate. Even then, something that could be deemed an explosion would be a rare circumstance.
The Evidence is in the Shrapnel
So if they can explode, the next question is, have any controllers actually done so? You’d have to think an exploding controller would be well documented in the news, and would likely have resulted in a hefty lawsuit being filed against somebody, yet I could find nothing about anyone being injured even mildly by an exploding controller. That certainly doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened though.
While I’ve taken some playful shots at Sony for their press release, I should add that it’s always safer to purchase licensed products, and I’m certainly not advocating anyone buy counterfeit goods just because they probably won’t explode. That said, I’ve used many unlicensed peripherals for numerous consoles over the years and have never had any major problems.
So what do you think? Is Sony just making it up as they go along? Why don’t they just come out and state the real reason for the firmware update? Have any of your devices stopped working? And have you ever heard of anyone being injured by an exploding controller? Let us know your thoughts below.
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