Tampering or no, Sony and Foxconn should learn from this PS4 fiasco

C. Custer
2:30 pm on Nov 20, 2013

As we just reported, an anonymous bulletin board post has led many to believe that Foxconn’s forced student interns — the ones we wrote about earlier this fall — may have tampered with the PS4, and that this tampering may even be the reason some new PS4 owners have experienced issues right out of the box.

Reading the post — which we have a full translation of in our report — it’s not clear whether Sony actually has anything to worry about. The poster certainly sounds angry, but there’s no evidence to suggest he or she is actually one of the student interns that worked at Foxconn’s Yantai plant or that any tampering actually happened.

But to be honest, I’m not sure whether or not the post’s veracity even really matters. Even if it isn’t real, it certainly could have been: many of the student interns were clearly disgruntled, and some would have been in a position to sabotage the consoles at least in a minor way. Whether or not it happened this time, when college kids are forced to work in irrelevant manual labor jobs and told they can’t graduate if they don’t complete the “internship”, would it really be so surprising that at least a few of them might try to find a way to fight back?

These internships would never happen without the cooperation of highly unscrupulous colleges, of course, and to be honest they probably deserve most of the blame. But Foxconn needs to realize that although they may be a readily-available source of labor when the going gets tough, students are also a significant risk. Disgruntled students certainly could try to sabotage a Foxconn product line someday even if it’s ultimately proved that hasn’t happened with the PS4, and disgruntled students are also terrible for PR.

If Sony and Foxconn escape relatively unscathed this time (which they probably will as long as the PS4 failure rate stays low enough), it will be more by luck than anything else. Hopefully, both companies are smart enough to realize that blackmailing college kids into spending months doing manual labor just isn’t worth it. It’s too big a product quality and PR risk to justify what has to be a fairly minimal bump in productivity.

It may be an English adage, but I’m guessing that the folks at Sony and Foxconn can fill in the blank at the end of this sentence: if you play with fire, sooner or later…

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