As many Sony (NYSE: SNE) PS3 owners painfully discovered yesterday, internal clocks went buggy yesterday, creating network outages and some cases of at least temporary data loss when virtual trophies were zapped.

The coding culprit was that all but the newer slim models mistook 2010 as a leap year. It doesn't get pretty when February 29, 2010 is actually March 1, 2010.

If Sony can take any consolation in the ordeal it's that it doesn't have to issue gamer credits. Unlike Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Xbox Live Gold subscriptions, access to the online gaming hubs on Sony and Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) consoles is free. They all try to cash in on premium digital downloads, though.

It remains to be seen if Sony's outage will be the validating event for the platform. Sony dominated the console wars when its PlayStation and PS2 systems were all the rage, but it now often finds itself chasing its rivals. Staring at the heels of the Wii and Xbox 360 has likely forced Sony into slashing prices on its PS3 consoles a bit more aggressively than it would have liked.

Downtime sometimes illustrates a brand's ubiquity. When signal degradation made reception spotty at Sirius XM Radio's (Nasdaq: SIRI) XM three years ago, satellite radio fans realized how important premium radio was. When Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) had a network outage a month before that, BlackBerry owners realized how attached they were to their corporate smartphones.

Sony probably is unlikely to unlock that virtual trophy. The move didn't impact all of its gamers. PS3 owners probably could have played games off the network or moved on to other diversions.

The PS3 network outage corrected itself 24 hours later, and it doesn't seem to be much of a media story today. This isn't akin to the 19-hour service outage that AOL (NYSE: AOL) suffered in the summer of 1996. Putting six million subscribers through that was rough, but it was a validating force. Six years later, AOL's subscriber base had grown more than fourfold.

Where will Sony's PlayStation Network be in the end of February come 2014, when jaded gamers will be braced for a hit despite Sony's likely assurances? If it's lucky, yesterday's downtime will prove to be a mixed blessing.

What must Sony do to be the console leader again? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz will admit to still playing video games, though finding time is the rub. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.