PSN Down Sony gets its own Red Ring of Death.As I’m sure you have seen on news and read in the papers this morning, Sony are in something of a pickle at the moment. Not only has PSN been down over the notoriously busy and potentially financially lucrative Easter weekend but news is now coming in that PlayStation 3 owners with active PlayStation Network accounts (all 77 million of them) are now sharing their details with the unknown hacker that has seemingly taken down Sony’s online infrastructure single-handedly – quite the potential data theft I think you’ll agree.

The fact that the system has been down for over a week and that this unknown hacker now has millions of users personal details is one thing, but the fact that this anonymous hacker could essentially do as he/she pleases with those millions of names, addresses and more worryingly, bank details of PlayStation Network account holders from all over the world is understandably kicking up something of a media storm.

With a delayed response from Sony already making a bad situation even worse, the question remains; just how bad can this actually get for Sony? My immediate response would be – ‘very’. This is already a PR disaster on an epic scale for Sony but when the media inevitably turn this story into a potential case of worldwide fraud, well, that’s the kind of news that gets the parents involved and that is, as they say, when the shit really hits the fan.

With millions of bank details listed to parents’ accounts rather than the actual gamers, expect this news to result in an immediate clamp down on purchases, online players and general PSN activity. Ok, so Sony are re-building PSN from the ground up based on this attack with the promise of tighter security and a generally superior service but with such a major media blow out, its reputation in the eyes of millions of people (many of whom won’t even be gamers) will be all but ruined. I have no doubt that the core gaming community will be a lot more forgiving, but I’d expect casual gamers who had previously dabbled with the PlayStation Store to be a lot more wary in the future.

It’s not just the PS3 that will be affected either. The success of Sony’s NGP, which is due to be launched later this year, will be hugely influenced by Sony’s online infrastructure and specifically, the number of PSN based transactions and downloads. Gamers will be able to pick up physical media for the device, but with a greater emphasis on choice and online micro transactions planned, news of the hack could potentially affect NGP sales in a big, big way.

Don’t get me wrong, these things do tend to blow over in time – I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of the non-gaming community all but forget this ever happened once the story invariably disappears from TV screens ……but that’s the things – how long will this story hang about? If stories of fraud based on the lost information start doing the rounds, expect this story to have an ongoing and potentially major effect on sales of the PS3, PSP and even the yet to be released, NGP.

Just as Microsoft and the 360 brand got over the red ring of death fiasco, Sony will inevitably bounce back from this public relations disaster. Make no mistake about it though – this is much bigger problem than the one faced by Microsoft, one with a huge list of potential repercussions and one that I’m sure will receive far greater column inches over the coming weeks. Sony and the PS3 will survive but it’ll be genuinely interesting to see how damaging this security breach will be to the Sony brand…..only time will tell.