Sony has flipped the switch to bring its Playstation Network back on line, after a lengthy, three-week outage. Sony Corporation Executive Deputy President Kazuo Hirai said that services would be brought back online in phases, and that first phase was underway.

Hirai said that this would include sign-in for the Playstation Network and the Qriocity music services and online gameplay for PS3 and PSP. Users have to upgrade their firmware and change their passwords before they can log back in to the network.

The Sony Playstation Network was taken offline on April 19 when hackers compromised the database. The episode has been disastrous for Sony PR, which took several days before admitting there’d been a security breach and revealing that its 77 million users’ data had been stolen. The network has remained offline since then.

It’s hard to say what’s worse for gamers: this lengthy outage – one of the worst on record – or the compromise of their personal data. Either way, Sony will have a long road ahead to win back the trust of gamers, who have a wide variety of options for other console or handhelds games.

Indeed, even before this recent attack on Sony, the company had lost the favor of many with its decision to sue hacker George Hotz for jailbreaking the PS3. Hotz and Sony recently settled, but not before what Electronista described as Sony’s “scorched earth attitude,” in which it had demanded access to the records of anyone who had viewed or commented on the jailbreak video on YouTube. Sony also requested that Twitter provide the identities of those who revealed the hack there.

Sony’s actions had drawn the ire of the vigilante group Anonymous, which launched a denial of service attack on the Sony website in response. But Anonymous has denied responsibility for the hack that brought the Playstation Network down and stolen user data.

In his announcement this evening, Hirai reassured users that Sony had instituted a number of new security changes. But with their personal data compromised and after 3 weeks of no online Playstation gameplay,it remains to be seen whether or not gamers will return, or if they’ve found other ways to spend their gaming time and money.