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By Don Reisinger
June 23, 2016

Once upon a time, Sony had an idea to offer PlayStation 3 owners the opportunity to run an alternative operating system on the console. Now it’ll need to pay up for doing so.

Soon after the PlayStation 3 launched in 2006, Sony (SNE) said that it would offer owners the opportunity to load another operating system on the console. The feature, dubbed Other OS, was designed as a way for users to get more out of the console than just gaming, and users would be able to run a wide range of operating systems, including the open-source Linux.

However, with a firmware update in 2010, Sony quickly changed its mind. In fact, the firmware update, called 3.21, removed the Other OS functionality over what it said were security concerns, leaving the unidentified number of those who had been using the feature out of luck. To add more salt to the wound, Sony also said that the PlayStation 3 Slim, the follow-up to the so-called “fat” PlayStation 3 that shipped at launch, wouldn’t even offer the feature.

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Disgruntled gamers and attorneys in 2010 formed a class that sued Sony for eliminating Other OS. They argued that the company’s decision was “harmful” to PlayStation 3 owners and demanded damages. Although their first bid was rebuffed when Sony fought the claim, the Ninth Circuit partially reversed the earlier case’s dismissal, extending the protracted battle over six years.

In a court filing this month, Sony and attorneys working on behalf of the class announced that the six-year lawsuit would come to an end and Sony would agree to pay up. The company has said that it will give those who could prove they used the Other OS feature $55 in cash. In addition, Sony is offering $9 in cash to anyone who might not have used Other OS but at least owned the larger PlayStation 3, had the ability to do so, and feel a loss by not having it.

“[Sony] has agreed to pay $55.00 to each Class member who submits a valid claim showing, among other things, proof that he or she used the Other OS functionality, and $9.00 to all other Class Members who submit a valid claim and attesting, among other things, that they lost value and/or desired functionality or were otherwise injured as a consequence of the firmware update,” a court filing obtained by Ars Technica reads. “There is no limit on the number of valid claims that Defendant is required to pay.”

While that last bit on no limits would suggest Sony might need to dole out a massive sum of cash, the parties believe a total of about 10 million PlayStation 3 owners were affected, since the case is limited solely to those who owned the larger console and might or might not have known about and used Other OS. So, it’s unlikely that Sony will get hit with too big of a bill, though the company will likely dole out millions just to put the case behind it.

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That said, it’s not over just yet. The parties have now requested approval of their agreement and are expected to be in court in mid-July to hear the final ruling. If the judge accepts the agreement, the class and Sony will work on getting the cash to customers. If the judge declines the deal, there’s no telling how much longer this could last.

Sony did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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