It was midnight Greenwich Mean Time on Feb. 28 when the errors began showing up. Millions of PlayStation 3 owners the world over tried logging on to Sony’s online service only to be greeted with the now-famous cryptic message: “An error has occurred. You have been signed out of PlayStation Network (8001050F).” Even players that didn’t want to go online were unable to play most of their games, because their systems had reportedly “failed to install trophies.” Debug units — used by developers making PS3 games and journalists trying out early review copies — were reportedly stuck in an endless cycle of reboots. Later in the day, Sony officially suggested to most of its customers “that you do not use your PS3 system, as doing so may result in errors in some functionality…”
Panic ensued. “PlayStation Network down” became the 14th most popular search term on Google. #Sony and #PS3 became trending topics on Twitter, as did the pithily misspelled #ApocalyPS3. A thread on gaming message board NeoGAF generated nearly 8,000 posts discussing the issue in a single day. Popular gadget blog Engadget labeled it “a full-on PlayStation disaster.”
An then… the problem fixed itself. Exactly 24 hours after the errors first appeared, they disappeared just as suddenly, and PlayStations the world over started working as intended once again.
Looking back, the reaction to this temporary problem — caused by a leap year interpretation error in an internal chip on most older PS3s — seems a bit overblown. But it definitely didn’t seem overblown at the time. “The overall tone of PS3 owners was a frantic one,” said Anthony Severino, owner of community site PlayStation Universe. “The PlayStation Network has been down before, but this bug left users unable to play their games — games they paid hard-earned cash for. … As time went on, panic turned into anger, sending a larger portion of the PlayStation community on a tirade.” Joystiq blogger Griffin McElroy, one of the first to cover the breaking story, said the initial reaction from gamers was “just what you’d expect, a lot of rage and fear from the PS3-owning community, and a whole bunch of braying and guffawing from the diehard 360 fans.”