Did you make your PSN account when you were a pre-teen, and now you’re in your 20s and stuck with SpongebobFartPants? Is your PSN name GangaDude420 and now you can’t join your colleagues’ interoffice Call of Duty games? Or maybe your username isn’t embarrassing, it just doesn’t reflect your identity anymore.

Well, you will soon be able to consign your tale of woe to the history books because PSN name changes are entering beta soon! Beta testing will be available as part of the PlayStation Preview Program and will be open to select users that have pre-registered for previous PS4 system betas.

To understand why this feature has taken so long, it helps to know how the profiles were set up in the first place. Every online account has a unique primary key that allows the software to tell the millions of accounts apart. The primary key can’t be changed; it’s the account’s unique identifier and the thing to which all other information related to your account is linked. For other gaming networks, like Microsoft or Steam, or even website accounts like Facebook, the primary keys are a set of increasing integers completely separate from your user name. When Sony was programming the PlayStation Network they decided to make the usernames be the primary key. This means that it has taken a tremendous amount of work on the backend to create new primary keys for millions of users and use them to replace the usernames as each account’s unique identifier. So kudos to all the hardworking software engineers who made this happen; many people thought it could never be done.

However, because of this difficulty the name change option will come with its own peculiarities. First of all, it’s only fully compatible with games published after April 1, 2018, as well as a selection of the system’s most popular games published before this date (a list of these select games will be released after the feature goes public). But don’t panic, users will be able to change back to their original username to access games that are not compatible with the new primary keys. You will also have the option to keep your old username displayed with your new one so your online friends can recognize you, but choose carefully because once you’ve decided to display your old name or not, that decision will be permanent.

If all goes well with the beta, Sony plans to rollout this feature in early 2019. The first name change will be free, with subsequent changes costing $4.99 for PlayStation Plus members and $9.99 for everyone else. So start brainstorming new names now (and hope they haven’t already been taken!)

Brooke Ali
Brooke grew up in Nova Scotia on a steady diet of scifi, fantasy, anime, and video games. She now works as a genealogist and lives in Toronto with her husband and twin nerds-in-training. When she's not reading and writing about geek culture, she's knitting, spinning, and writing about social history.

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