Sony's 'Welcome Back' freebies are live, but buggy: hands on

By Mark Hachman | Published on Jan 18 2016
Sony's 'Welcome Back' freebies are live, but buggy: hands on

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Sony officially launched its "Welcome Back" offer to entice disgruntled users back to its PlayStation Network with free games and movies.

But was unable to download one of the promised games because of error messages that may or may not have caused the download to fail. After the error message, the option to download the second game vanished.

Sony is also offering three movies to rent for free this weekend: Ghostbusters, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and Bad Boys.

"We developed the program as an expression of our gratitude for your patience, support and continued loyalty during the service outage. From all of us at PlayStation, thank you and welcome back!" Patrick Seybold, senior director of corporate communications and social media, wrote in a blog post on May 16.

Sony's PlayStation Network, of course, was hacked at the end of April, prompting Sony chairman and chief executive Howard Stringer to offer a personal apology to those affected and offered a year of free credit monitoring and an ID theft policy. Sony Online Entertainment, which was also hit in the attack, is offering up freebies as well, including gaming perks and ID theft protection.

All PlayStation Network customers can choose two of five PS3 games: Dead Nation; inFAMOUS; LittleBigPlanet; Super Stardust HD; or Wipeout HD Fury. PSP owners can select two of four games: LittleBigPlanet; ModNation Racers; Pursuit Force; or Killzone Liberation. All games will be available for 30 days after the store is restored and can be kept forever.

Sony is also offering up a few other freebies, including:

  • A selection of free "On Us" movie rentals for PlayStation Network customers over the course of one weekend, the list of which is above.
  • Non-PlayStation subscribers will get a free, 30-day PlayStation Plus membership.
  • Existing PlayStation Plus members will get 30 extra days free.
  • Music Unlimited Premium/Basic subscribers will get free access for 30 days, plus time lost.
  • PlayStation Home will offer 100 virtual items.

Process seems buggy

"We're so excited to welcome you back to PlayStation Network. With the PlayStation Store back online, we've been getting all caught up this week, having launched an abundance of amazing content for download on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable devices across games, movies, themes and DLC," Susan Panico, the director of the Playstation Network, wrote in a blog post announcing the reopening.

I signed into the PlayStation Network and opened the PlayStation Store. There, at the top left-hand column, was a highlighted "Welcome Back" option.

Clicking it opened a PlayStation Store-like screen, with buttons to press to sign up for the PlayStation Plus content, as well as the two PlayStation 3 and PSP games. (I don't own a PSP, so I didn't try to download the PSP content.)

Signing up for the Plus subscription went smoothly: a screen notes that the 30-day subscription won't renew, and will simply stop at the end of the allotted period.

Downloading the games, though, was a bit more complicated. Users will need to click on the first of the PS3 game buttons ("Download PS3 Game 1," I believe it says) which brings up a screen describing which games are available.

To be honest, I expected the process to go smoothly, and didn't take detailed notes of the entire buying experience. But I can tell you that I received popups telling me that I would have to purchase the free game, then back out to the PlayStation Store to "purchase" the next free game. Clicking "download" to download the game locked the screen for a few seconds, enough that I started fiddling with the controls.

I've downloaded demos through the PlayStation Store, and the Welcome Back process includes an intermediary step or two that confused me. Eventually, I ended up at the screen that told me that the game (I chose "Infamous") was downloading. (At press time, it's still downloading, at what appears to be the same download speed as usual.) No problems there.

But after backing out and beginning the process anew for the second PS3 game, I ran into a few generic error messages. It's possible that I backed out in the middle of the process, voiding the transaction and eliminating the option, or it's a Sony glitch that others might experience as well. But for me, the option to download the second game ("Little Big Planet") vanished before I could download it.

There aren't enough comments on the PlayStation Blog to know if what I experienced was simply my own incompetence or if this is another indication of Sony's online troubles. Let me know about your own experiences in the comments.

Update: Sony support staff on the PlayStation Blog offer the following advice if you're having problems, as I did:

Select 'Welcome Back Free PS3 Game 1′ and click on 'Get Now'
Press circle to go back and select your first free game
Return to the Welcome Back page and select 'Welcome Back Free PS3 Game 2′ and click on 'Get Now'
Press circle to go back and select your second free game
Go to the XMB(tm) to play your free games
Make sure to complete the download of each title all the way otherwise you'll have to go into account management>transaction management>services list>SCEA Promotions to download the games

Copyright © 2010 Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings Inc.

Mark Hachman

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