The PlayStation Store remains inaccessible, but online play is back

After more than three weeks of downtime, Sony has begun bringing the PlayStation Network back online.

Earlier today, a firmware update (v3.61) was released that forces users to change their PSN passwords. Out of security concerns for PS3 users, this password reset has to be done through a PS3 system that your account was activated on. If you’ve never downloaded anything on your PS3 before, you’ll need to change the password through an e-mail sent to the e-mail address attached to your PSN account.

Since the firmware went live, Sony released the video above and a page on the PlayStation Blog tracking its progress with bringing PSN back online. It can’t bring it on in an instant across the country, and it will take several hours for everyone in the United States to be able to access PSN. The east coast has largely been brought back, with most of the interior of the country still waiting.

Not everything on the PlayStation Network is back — the most notable omission is access to the PlayStation Store, which will be back “as soon as possible.” The following has been brought back online: the ability to sign into PSN, online play on PS3 and PSP, third-party services (Netflix, Hulu, MLB.TV, Vudu), friends lists, chat functionality, Trophy comparisons, and PlayStation Home.

Details on the welcome back program will be announced on a region-by-region basis in the coming days. Europeans will be getting a choice of two free games.

In a video statement, Sony boss Kaz Hirai noted that advanced security technology, increased levels of decryption, additional firewalls, and an early warning detection system have all been put into place to avoid a situation like this again in the future.

“I can’t thank you enough for your patience and support during this time,” Hirai said. “We know even the most loyal customers have been frustrated by this process and are anxious to use their Sony products and services again. I wish we could have restored the network services faster, but these attacks were serious and sophisticated, and it simply took time to install and test the new security measures across our entire system. We felt that we owed it to you to fully verify the security of the networks before restoring our services.”