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Well, at least they got it back online before E3.

After more than three weeks of downtime following an online attack, Sony this afternoon announced that it’s starting to restore its PlayStation Network and Qriocity services. Users logging back in will be prompted to change their passwords, just one of a series of new security steps that the company is taking in the wake of the attacks.

“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,” said Kazuo Hirai, Sony Computer Entertainment president, in a videotaped statement, embedded above. “We felt that we owed it to you to fully verify the security of the network before restoring our services.”

Bloomberg News reported yesterday, citing an anonymous source, that the hackers rented server space from Amazon’s EC2. This is an odd coincidence, but looking back, the Amazon Web Services outage started on the same day as the PlayStation Network outage did, April 21.

It’s not clear yet whether or how much the outage could affect Sony’s standing in the video game console market, where it competes against Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s Wii. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 again led the U.S. market in April, according to NPD Group data released this past week, but the PS3 also experienced growth.

Sony will have some serious work to do at the upcoming E3 video-game convention, in early June, to try to turn the conversation away from this outage.

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