My Xbox 360 captured at its TOD
Two Xbox 360 consoles dead in two weeks

There must be some sort of epidemic spreading through DailyTech, crippling our Xbox 360 consoles one by one. Two weeks ago, Brandon’s Xbox 360 was struck by the notorious Red Ring of Death. Like Brandon, I too was naive about the fragility of my Xbox 360, as I was sure that I wouldn’t have any problems since I kept my console very well ventilated and in an abnormally cold environment (I’m Canadian, and yes, I live in an igloo).

As much as I love games and reporting on them, I really don’t have much time to play. For the hardcore gamer, my Xbox 360 is largely underused, which is why I was in disbelief that my console could be afflicted by a Red Ring of Death. But it happened, and it did so slowly and with telling symptoms – I was just in denial.

It all started weeks ago, while starting up a co-op game of Marvel Ultimate Alliance over Xbox Live, when I noticed some screen corruption. It wasn’t the rainbow checkerboard pattern that Brandon saw, but it was something else. I restarted my console and everything was fine again, and so continued my adventures as a comic hero.

Days after, the console hummed (or screamed, if you have the noisier Hitachi drive) along, providing problem-free sessions of Gears of War and TMNT co-op. The graphical corruption was nearly forgotten, when at a later session of co-op Marvel Ultimate Alliance, the game hard locked. I reset the Xbox 360 and, to my complete horror, the dreaded Red Ring of Death flashed at me. So I turned the machine off and on again, and it loaded the main menu with the Ring of Light green again. By that time, my co-op partner decided to call it a night and so the console went to rest.

The next day, I was curious to see if my Xbox 360 would wake up, and it did. I decided to give it a bit of warm up by playing some game trailers that I downloaded, but it hard locked again at the very end of a video, which I figured was just a software glitch. Yes, I was still in denial, but my confidence in my Xbox 360 was dropping quickly. I then popped in my NIN HD DVD into the add-on since I was writing a story on it, but it didn’t even make it past the main menu before locking up again.

Maybe it’s a video problem, I thought, so I started up the Def Jam Icon demo and made it through half of a fight before the screen blanked out into a series of grey squares. I attempted to power cycle the console once more, but it had enough. Red Ring of Death, it showed me again, this time more convincingly than ever.

Well played Red Ring, well played. So I dialled 1-800-MY-XBOX and jumped through the automated system and smirked when I heard that “three flashing red lights” was actually a troubleshooting option. I actually muttered “Red Ring of Death” to see if the system would understand it, but sadly it wouldn’t. After jumping through a few hoops to disconnect and reconnect various things to and from my Xbox 360, an agent took down my information, gave me a reference number, and apologized for the inconvenience.

I asked the agent if he knew what the odds were of me getting my original console back, as I didn’t want a refurbished one, and actually pointed him to the news of the recent changes to the warranty. He wasn’t aware of any recent changes to the policy, but as soon as he confirmed that Microsoft would be covering shipping costs, then I knew that the new warranty terms were in effect, whether or not he was aware of them.

So here I sit, waiting for my Xbox 360 coffin to arrive so that I can send my console to Texas for repairs. This all had to happen just before the start of a holiday weekend, adding additional wait time and insult to injury.

If it weren’t for Microsoft extended the Xbox 360 warranty from an embarrassing 90 days to one year, I’d be SOL. I’d also be paying shipping costs had Microsoft not made further revisions. I’m satisfied with the ease of getting my RMA process started, though the jury will still be out on that one until my Xbox 360 returns to me.

No matter what Microsoft does to improve its warranty, I will not applaud the company for that. The improvements in customer service are something they are being pressured to do in midst of Xbox 360 consoles dropping like flies.

The real issue here is that the Xbox 360 hardware is terribly, horribly and utterly unreliable. Microsoft beefing up its customer care to better help customers is a clear testament to the fragility of its the hardware.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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