Thousands of PlayStation 3 owners have been hit by a software problem that crashes their games console.
Sony said it was working hard to identify and resolve the problem, which has left thousands of PS3 owners unable to play games or access the PlayStation Network and has, in some cases, deleted or corrupted trophy achievements.
Speculation is rife that the problem has been caused by a clock or calendar bug. The fault emerged overnight, as console calendars switched from February to March, with many PS3 owners reporting that their console clock had reset itself to December 31, 1999 or January 1, 2000.
The fault appears only to affect owners of older PS3 consoles, rather than the more recent, 'slim' versions.
Gamers have reported seeing an error message that reads: "8001050F – Hardware failure. Cannot update Firmware or connect to internet".
They then report being unable to access or play content downloaded from the PlayStation Network, and in some instances, have complained that trophy and achievement data has been compromised or deleted.
Sony said that its engineers were working "flat out" to fix the glitch. "We have found out that some users are experiencing a network connection failure when signing on to PlayStation Network," said Sony in a statement.
"We are currently looking in to the issue to identify the cause of this network connection failure and will update further information as necessary on the PlayStation blog and official website. We appreciate your understanding and continued support."
Sony said that PS3 owners could continue to use their console in offline mode, and for gameplay and other tasks that don't require internet access.
However, some gaming websites are warning PlayStation 3 owners not to turn their consoles on at all until a fix has been issued, because some users have reported problems with their console even when they haven't tried to log on to the PlayStation Network.