PS3 online service restoration begins in earnest

Three and a half weeks after Sony first pulled the plug on all PS3 and PSP online services, players are (slowly) starting to get back in the game.

In a rare late Saturday night post on the Playstation Blog, Sony confirmed that parts of the Playstation Network are now up and running in targeted parts of the US.

In order to get back online, users will first need to download a new PS3 firmware update. Among other things, this update requires that users change their password as a security precaution, and also no doubt implements new protective features behind the scenes.

Sony also introduced new password requirements – passwords must now be at least eight characters long, contain both numbers and letters, and cannot use the same character three times in a row.

The initial rollout of service restoration includes the entire Eastern seaboard as well as the state of California. Sony says PSN access will come to the rest of the country in phased installments. Also, this restoration of service only applies to multiplayer online gaming. Other services, like the Playstation Store, remain offline.

Over the span of the last 21 days, all regularly scheduled posts on Sony’s official Playstation Blog – which is usually updated with several daily posts from publishers discussing their latest Playstation titles – were canceled to focus on coverage of the outage. The company’s senior director of corporate communications and social media Patrick Seybold has been the only one posting messages since April 22, with the exception of an explanation from Sony’s Eric Lempel about the new firmware update. Seybold has put up 17 blog posts to keep gamers, publishers, and spectators in the loop, but his post on Saturday night was the first that brought good news.

Far and away, this is the longest that PSN services have been completely suspended, and neither Xbox Live nor the Wii’s online gaming services have ever been disrupted nearly this long. On April 21, Sony informed users “it may be a full day or two before we’re able to get the service completely back up and running.” It ended up being 23 days.

During that time, the issue went from a minor annoyance to a corporate scandal to a catastrophic multi-million-dollar cluster**** that will go down in the annals of gaming history.

As a small token of its appreciation for users’ patience, Sony has offered free enrollment into an identity theft protection program, and promises to give away a handful of premium downloadable products and services to all registered PSN customers.

For the latest information about where PSN access has been restored, Sony has made a continuously updated map available here.