Resolving PlayStation Vita Error Code NP-9968-2

- Video Games, Security, Anecdotes

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PlayStation Vita

For about 2 years, I was not able to install any new software on my PlayStation Vita, for seemingly no reason. I could make new purchases from the PlayStation Store, but the download would always fail, and only on my Vita. No issues whatsoever with my PlayStation 3 nor my PlayStation 4, but for some bizarre reason the Vita would always fail. Even stranger, reinstalling local backups of deleted Vita software was working perfectly fine, but not when redownloading said software from the PlayStation Store again.

This is the story of how I resolved the issue, without resorting to hacking. (Spoiler alert: it's Sony's fault.)

The problem

Whenever I would attempt to download any purchased software from the PlayStation Store to my Vita, the following error would occur instead:

Error Code: NP-9968-2
Application: NPXS10002 (0b-000-000)
NAT Type: 2
System Software: 3.73
Message: An error has occurred.

Truly, the most helpful and descriptive error message ever.

Looking for solutions online

Sony provides a troubleshooting page where PlayStation error codes can be looked up for more information. Problem is, NP-9968-2 is not even listed there.

What was clear was that I was not alone with this issue, and I found multiple forum threads discussing the same issue I was experiencing. Every thread I found listed the working solution as... disabling multi-factor authentication of the associated PSN (PlayStation Network) account.

Yes, you read that right: if your PSN account is too secure, you can't download your purchases. How did this got through quality assurance? And for those wondering, no, Sony never fixed this.

Well I'm glad for those people that they found a workaround, even if it's a dumb one. Unfortunately, I never activated multi-factor authentication on my account in the first place, so that solution did not apply to me. So I kept looking.

The only other helpful and relevant thing that I found was a forum post on a Greek website detailing a bunch of Vita errors. I'm not sure what the original source is, but it seems to have been a backup of some Sony documentation, possibly an older version of the troubleshooting page I mentioned earlier.

In any case, my error was documented there, and this is what it said about it:

PSN Password is incorrect
Please confirm that your password is correct. If you still cannot sign in, please reset your password, and use the new password to sign in.

Unfortunately, I was able to sign out and sign back in with my account on my Vita just fine, so that solution was irrelevant.

As I couldn't find anything, I tried to contact Sony's customer support. Turns out, not only were they reluctant to help me at all since they had phased out support for the Vita despite continuing to release new games for it, but they also had no information about NP-9968-2!

Time to try something different.

Workaround attempt #1

In the past, I had purchased a digital version of the PSP (PlayStation Portable) game Dissidia 012[duodecim] Final Fantasy for my Vita. The game had a weird quirk however: it could not be directly downloaded on a Vita, even though the paid demo version, Dissidia Duodecim Prologus Final Fantasy, could.

The workaround? Download the game on a PlayStation 3, then transfer it to the Vita. And yes, the game works flawlessly after doing so, so it's not a compatibility issue between the PSP and the Vita. You'd think someone would have fixed the problem by now, but no.

Does this workaround work in this case? Unfortunately, no. The download would work on the PlayStation 3, but the transfer to the Vita afterwards would fail with the same NP-9968-2 error. Dang.

Workaround attempt #2

As the error seemed to be related to the Vita's DRM (Digital Rights Management), there was a possibility that my Vita activation with my PSN account got corrupted. As such, I tried deactivating and reactivating it.

Unexpectedly, attempting the deactivation also triggered error NP-9968-2!

Strangely, it was possible to attempt a Vita activation while it is already activated, so I also tried that, just in case. Once again, error NP-9968-2 stroke again!

At this point, I suspected that if some activation got corrupted, it had to be on Sony's servers. Thankfully, it was possible to connect to a PSN account through their website and force a deactivation of all activated devices at once, with the limitation that this could only be performed once every 6 months. So I did. Except it only deactivated my PlayStation 4, not my other devices, and then I could not try again for 6 months.

I contacted Sony's customer support again, but this time about this deactivation issue, as I figured this was an issue with their website and not with legacy devices. They sent me a form by email in order to validate my identity and make sure my request was legit before processing, which I had filled and submitted. However, my request was rejected without providing any reason. So I contacted Sony again, and since they could not easily get the reason of the rejection, they sent me another form. Same problem again. This happened 3 or 4 times in total.

At some point I insisted for the actual reason for the constant manual rejections, and finally got an answer after a day of delay: they thought the serial number I was providing was invalid.

It's important to note at this point that the sticker with my Vita's serial number printed on it actually fell off of it a long ago due to wear. As such, the serial number I was providing was the one returned by Windows upon plugging my Vita to my PC via USB and checking its properties, as I had previously validated that the numbers matched between the two. Because the printed version was formatted slightly differently however despite containing the exact same information, they had rejected it. Only after revealing this detail that they finally approved my request and went ahead with the manual mass deactivation, which was successful.

Unfortunately, error NP-9968-2 persisted after that.

Workaround attempt #3

As a last ditch effort, Sony's customer service suggested formatting my Vita.

I was not interested attempting with a full format, because I had extremely low expectations of success, and because a failure would cause me to lose access to all of my digital content and saved data. Sure, I had a backup, but I had no way to know for sure whether said backup would still work after a format as I could not find any information as to whether this would trigger the DRM or not.

Still, I tried formatting everything that was not tied to digital content. As expected, it didn't solve the issue.

The workaround that finally worked for me

Remember the strange error description about an incorrect password from that Greek forum post I mentioned earlier? Guess what: it's actually relevant. In fact, it's what led me to correctly guessing the actual working solution.

Turns out, the root cause of the error was that my password... was too strong. My randomly-generated password had a peculiar property that made it so that it was working perfectly fine for everything, including their website and all of my PlayStation devices, except for the very specific use case of installing new software on my Vita.

The peculiar problematic property of my password was... spaces.

As far as I can tell, due to a bug, attempting to activate a Vita or install new software on it while the associated PSN password has a space in it causes it to fail with error code NP-9968-2. I generated a new random password after excluding the space character, and suddenly my Vita started working fine again. Goodbye NP-9968-2, you will not be missed!

To add insult to injury, the one time I talked to a Sony customer support supervisor about this issue, he told me there was no way my random password could be relevant when I mentioned this idea during our call. It was.

I'm glad for the happy ending, but... urgh. This was frustrating.

Update 2022-05-18: I'm happy to report that the issue with unsupported password characters was finally fixed with system software update 3.74, about 1.5 years after reporting the root cause to Sony, and this despite being their first system software update for the Vita in more than 2.5 years! Note that if you still experience error code NP-9968-2 on your PlayStation Vita or PlayStation TV while being signed in to PSN, you may still need to disable multi-factor authentification.

Update 2022-11-22: I got an email report from Joshua Dunbar that they got the error on the latest system software update, but were able to resolve it after deactivating PlayStation Mobile from their device. They also noted that they did so while having their memory card removed from the system. While I cannot verify this information, you may want to try it out if you're still experiencing this issue after trying the above.

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