The Last of Fuss – having and avoiding PSN pre-order woes

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Even after all the recent hubub over DRM and game resales revealing the commitment issues of gamers world-wide, I bought The Last of Us as a distinctly “non-Gamestoppable” digital copy off Sony’s redesigned and devilishly handsome PlayStation Store. That’s just how I roll. In this case it’s how I roll over a somewhat bumpy road. The digital future – as performed by Sony, at least – is not without its share of caveats, it turns out. I felt compelled to share my experience and explain how to avoid the same pitfalls.

Late on Thursday evening, I plopped down a pre-order on the digital version of The Last of Us. Immediately after confirming the purchase, I could download all the pre-order trinkets, as well as a 130MB installer for the game which I couldn’t run before the “start date.” 8002951E was the error code cited. Fine – I figured I’d just wait until it unlocked, start the download (a meaty 24GB) and go to bed. “It’ll be done by morning, I can go to work and still play it on Friday evening.”

Yeeeaaaaah, no. When midnight came, I received an email saying there were insufficient funds in my PlayStation Store “wallet”. If you’ve bought stuff on PSN, you’ll know that at checkout, if you haven’t topped up your wallet, you can just choose to directly charge the exact amount of the item you’re buying to your credit card. Naturally, since it didn’t tell me otherwise, I assumed this would happen with a pre-order as well. Instead I’m told to go into the account settings and enable “auto-funding” or stick the appropriate amount into my wallet. I’m left with the vague message that Sony will “attempt to charge me again prior to the release date,” poorly indicating when I could expect that to happen for me – considering that the release date had already arrived.

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Nevertheless, I immediately toggled auto-funding on and awaited confirmation that my purchase had been successfully processed. I waited one hour. I waited two. I waited until I couldn’t stay up any more if I wanted to pass for human the following day. Attempts to start the installer still gave me the same message and error code, despite the fact that I was more than four hours into the “start date.” Begrudgingly, I went to bed.

On Friday morning I checked my email again only to be met by tumbleweeds. I checked my balance, and no money had been withdrawn. I ran the installer, which still played the “start date” card. All morning I could barely concentrate on work, because at that point the whole ordeal was threatening to eat into my precious weekend gaming time, considering 24GB isn’t downloaded in a jiffy.

The obvious solution seemed to be customer support, so I found what appeared to be the appropriate number to call and gave them a ring. Up-front I was informed by a sombre robot voice that the call would cost me the equivalent of 70p per minute (!!), and I hung up. After fast-tracking the denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, I decided to grit my teeth and dial the number again. Beyond the cautionary tales of extra charges, a kind, gentle voice regretfully informed me that due to “training,” the call centre was closed for the day. I’m pretty sure I would’ve made excellent practice.

Instead I fired off an email of my own to two different versions of Sony/PlayStation customer support: the Swedish and UK addresses. I explained my situation in detail – that I was 12 hours into the day of release, and that the auto-funding option was now enabled. An hour later – which isn’t too shabby in customer support time – I get a reply from the Swedish addy. It’s signed “Nordic Film Hotline,” which sounds a little naughty to be honest – and it’s written in English:

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It’s plainly obvious that the above was written by a robot. It’s basically a regurgitated version of the auto-generated email PSN sent me. I wrote back, re-iterating the same points, and asked how long I had to wait for PSN to charge me and allow me to download the game. They replied:

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Yeah, thanks. I wrote them back again asking at what interval PSN tries to charge you. I figured if there was just one question, maybe they’d accidentally answer it. They didn’t. They didn’t respond at all. I waited until about 11pm and fired off this sad, final email for them to find whenever they were manning their posts next:

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I’m pretty sure that’s gonna give readings on some passive-aggression-o-metres out there – that just means they’re working.

Of course, whenever I do let my passion get the better of me, things usually resolve themselves magically and I feel like a knob. At midnight, Friday, it charged my card and I could start the 24GB trek towards Naughty Dog’s latest and greatest.

So, things to keep in mind, then:

  • When you pre-order, make sure you have enabled auto-funding in your settings. There are two ways to do this. You can do it on your “My PSN” page on your region’s playstation.com site, via “Edit my PlayStation Network account settings” under the “My Hardware” section at the bottom. The alternative is to do it via your account settings in the PS3‘s XMB.
  • You have to wait a full 24 hours between attempts to charge you should it try to withdraw the funds without auto-funding enabled or sufficient funds in your wallet. I don’t think I actually need to mention that this can be the difference between getting to play a game when you plan to, or not.
  • You will need to start the installer manually, you can’t simply pre-order the game and have it take care of itself à la Steam. It will download all the initial files automatically, but the bulk of the game’s download size is relegated to the install process.

Nobody likes loose ends to plot threads. “What of the email you sent to the UK playstation address?!”, I hear you yell at your screens. Well, on Monday morning, I received an email that was actually worded by a real human being, telling me to call the same 70p support line I already mentioned. I know – that’s not a particularly thrilling climax to this adventure. I should’ve made something up.

If you find any inaccuracies, or want me to add something to this article, please tweet at me @SimonLundmark and I’ll see to that it gets added.

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