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Sony Breaks Its Silence On Fan Backlash

Sony may change a PlayStation 4 update after criticism it convolutes the console's party system and allows online chat to be recorded. The update went live on Oct.14, integrating party, and messaging into one system. PlayStation 4 owners heavily criticized the update, forcing a response out of Sony that stated, "Hey, folks – just wanted to let you know that we're looking into your feedback on the recent changes to Parties on PS4. Thanks for speaking up – we'll keep you posted."

The update reportedly caused difficulties accessing friend's lists, parties, and playing games online, according to GameSpot. The PlayStation Network is back up and running now, but users still took issue with many of the changes. Before the update, a party owner could invite anyone straight from the party menu. Now, in order to invite someone to a party, a separate message group must be created. This causes an influx of notifications and privacy issues as any party member can look at messages between friends.

Additionally, players started seeing the message: "voice chats may be recorded," an update not illustrated in the patch notes. Many gamers thought Sony was spying on their conversations. Sony issued an update on the PlayStation Blog after fans started to revolt, writing that the recordings exist so PlayStation 5 players can record voice chat and send the recording to Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) for moderation. This is an effort to report online harassment and not to monitor conversations, according to Catherine Jensen, VP of Global Consumer Experience at SIE. "We believe that it's critical that gamers be able to quickly and accurately report abuse or harassment if they experience it while on PlayStation Network," Jensen said, acknowledging that Sony should have been more transparent with the update.

The confusion was finally cleared up but gamers are still not pleased. Twitter user itypar wrote, "Yep PS5 pre-order CANCELLED!!! God of War and Spider-Man are not worth my rights/freedoms as an American." Other users like Crypto Goldfish did not understand why fans were so angry about the update. "Reaction to this change shows how many people were actually hiding behind anonymity and using offensive language towards other people they never met," they said. "Since Sony IS NOT recording by force for their own internal team, there is no reason for this reaction."

Gamers also took to Reddit to explain their frustrations about the new party system. Arrow-Maestro explained some of the issues he's seen with the party and message integration, writing, "[E]very time someone joins the voice chat they get added to a swelling message group. Besides the privacy issues, this also leads to huge message groups [and a bombardment of notifications.]" Other users like homie_down did not see anything wrong with the party system in the first place. "I genuinely can't understand how they could so abruptly break something that literally nobody had issues with," they wrote. "The party system back on Xbox 360 is now superior to this, and that came out like 13 years ago."

The update dropped in close proximity to the PlayStation 5 UI reveal, and the new PlayStation 5 party system resembles some of what's now available in the PS4's 8.00 update. When Sid Shuman, Senior Director of SIE Content Communications, showed the process of sharing a screenshot with parties, the menu was not that dissimilar to the one added to the PS4. Shuman also told PlayStation owners to "Remember, parties are bigger than just voice chat now," heavily implying the integration of messages and parties. With that being said, the UI looks to be a smooth experience. It adds functions such as game help; a way to find guides via the PlayStation 5 interface; the control center, which gives the player access to essential functions without leaving the game; screen sharing capabilities; and activity cards that notifies the player of their progress in certain game activities.

In other news, fans were also displeased with the last-minute announcement that older content is leaving the mobile/web versions of the PlayStation Store. This change, along with update 8.00, is a consequence of the PlayStation 5 launch. Sony is preparing for the next-generation of consoles (update 8.00 also adds a PlayStation 5 remote play feature) by making changes to their pre-existing hardware. Some of these changes displeased fans and Sony has heard the concerns. Though the company has not altered the updated party system just yet, it will likely have an update for fans in the near future. All of the recent controversy aside, Sony is still expecting to have a successful PlayStation 5 launch.