The company says users of the Sony Online Entertainment service will be offered free game time as compensation for the outage [GALLO/GETTY]

Sony has said it began a phased restoration of its PlayStation Network games service on a country by country basis and expected the process to be complete by May 31.

The PlayStation Network, which enables PlayStation games console owners to download games and pit their skills against rivals, has been offline since April 19, after Sony discovered hackers had breached security and accessed personal details on 77 million accounts.

It shut down the network and its Qriocity online music and movie service, frustrating many users, but later found out that a separate online games service had also been accessed, forcing a further shutdown.

The company said phased restoration of the Sony Online Entertainment PC-based online games service also began on Sunday.

 The Japanese electronics and entertainment giant apologised to customers for the outages and said in a statement a range of new security measures had been introduced.

"I can't thank you enough for your patience and support during this time," Sony No. 2 Kazuo Hirai said in the news release, acknowledging that customers were "anxious" to use their products again.

"We are taking aggressive action at all levels to address the concerns that were raised by this incident, and are making consumer data protection a full-time, company wide commitment."

Users of the Sony Online Entertainment service will be offered free game time as compensation for the outage, the company said.

Source: Agencies