Print 73 comment(s) - last by psychobriggsy.. on Sep 13 at 8:36 PM

  (Source: Kristopher Kubicki)
Dean Takahashi delves in to the causes of the Red Ring of Death

In a meticulously researched 11,000 word article, Dean Takahashi of Venture Beat has written about the chronological series of events that led to the hardware failures faced by the Xbox 360. Often called the “Red Ring of Death”, it is a condition that describes when three flashing red lights light up the front of an Xbox 360 indicating hardware failure.

The article describes how the business need to be first to market influenced all decisions resulting in compromised hardware quality. Early warnings were ignored as Microsoft was determined to launch their console first. According to Takahashi, Microsoft’s engineers started working on the Xbox 360 at least a year after Sony’s engineers began work on the PlayStation 3, yet Microsoft wound up shipping a year ahead of Sony. Although we were repeatedly assured all was fine it was thanks to gamers and the media Microsoft was dragged kicking and screaming in to admitting there was a problem.

Takahashi reports in August 2005 during the early stages of the Xbox 360’s development warnings were already being raised but were ignored. An engineer raised his hand and said, “Stop. You have to shut down the line.” This wasn’t just a brief moment. The engineer spoke up repeatedly. According to the article that engineer, who remains anonymous, had deep experience in manufacturing. When production results were really off kilter, stopping a line and tracing a problem back to its roots was the answer. Managers and executives, higher-ranking engineers ignored the warnings and decided to go forward. At the time, 68 out of every 100 Xbox 360s made were not working. Worse still, when the first batch of the system's three-core CPUs rolled off the line, only 16 percent worked.

Microsoft mandated the Xbox 360 had to be smaller, if only to fit in the smaller homes in Japan, a key target market. There was a constant tug of war between the industrial designers, who wanted something small and the engineers, who wanted to pack a lot of performance into the Xbox 360. The more powerful the system was, the bigger the box had to be to provide air flow for heat-sensitive components. Incremental changes to a finalized design appear to have caused many problems. According to the article, Microsoft decided late to add a hard disk drive. They also came up late with a plan to add wireless controllers. Many of these decisions resulted in reduced airflow causing the overheating that caused so many Xbox 360s to fail.

On November 22, 2005 the Xbox 360 launched and the consoles began to fail immediately. In July of 2007, Microsoft publicly admitted there was a problem and took a corresponding financial hit of more than $1 billion to fix it. Prior to that acknowledgement, Takahashi reports that Microsoft had taken returns on 1.2 million of the roughly 11.6 million shipped Xbox 360s.

According to Takahashi, there was no single reason for the failures. Many of the problems could be blamed on the ATI graphics chip, which could overheat so much it warped the motherboard. This put stress on bad solder joints, causing them to fail early in the machine’s life. Sometimes the heat sinks on top of the GPU were put on the wrong way, resulting in heat problems. Finally, games would sometimes crash because of sub-par memory.

The implications of the “Red Ring of Death” issue are being felt to this day. In Takahashi’s own words:

The Xbox 360’s defect problem will go down as one of the worst snafus in consumer electronics history.

Microsoft argues being first to market was worth the compromises. Microsoft’s top game executive, Robbie Bach, president of the Entertainment & Devices group, said at a dinner in July that Microsoft’s own research shows that gamers have largely forgiven the company for defective Xbox 360s. Bach also said in July 2008, “It has given us a leg up in a number of places that are super important. It has given us a leg up with game developers. It has given us a leg up from an economics perspective. It helped us expand Xbox Live quickly.”

What Microsoft sacrificed was the good will of consumers, who are critical for establishing a lasting platform. It remains to be seen whether the benefits of launching the Xbox 360 first will exceed the consequences of releasing a faulty product.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Sux to be me ( & MS )
By nogascans on 9/8/2008 9:56:24 PM , Rating: 1
"that Microsoft’s own research shows that gamers have largely forgiven the company for defective Xbox 360s "

well that may be their analysis, but I'm not one of those gamers for sure! In our family we have 3 360's, including my latest 360 Elite purchased last Xmas. All 3 units have failed due to the 3 RROD "China Syndrome", including the Elite unit which failed the 2nd week of August.

As with the previos models, I sent it for repairs, having to expend for a shipping box and packaging. Last week they shipped back the exact same one with the SAME 3 RROD! When I called MS, they claimed that they had replaced, not repaired the unit. But after comparing the Serial Number as recorded before shipment ( and listed on the MS Xbox site ), it was clear that they had in fact not sent a new unit NOR had they repaired the current unit. I was told to simply return the unit, and was not given any apology or explaination for the snafu! Is this is what is called "GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE"??

So back to shipping I go with the same inconveinence of not having the use of the console that I spent good money on.

I work in a High End Custom Electronics company as a Consultant, and if we handled issues like this we would be out of business. The POOR CUSTOMER SERVICE/QUALITY CONTROL MEASURES have made me feel that I cannot recommend in good faith to my Clients such a poorly constructed electronics device. As a result I will no longer recommend MS Xbox 360 products to my Clients for Gaming or Media Extenders.

I will also be purchasing Sony PS3's in the near future to replace the Xbox 360's and curtail my involvement in my MS Partner program's for my business and personal accounts.

Has anyone comtemplated a Class Action lawsuit?

Steve Ballmer: are you listening?

RE: Sux to be me ( & MS )
By Warren21 on 9/8/2008 11:04:51 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know what kind of bad luck you had, but I bought a used 360 Premium last November for 240 CAD.

I plugged it in, turned it on... RROD. I was aware of the recent 3 year warranty extention, so I called them up. After maybe 20 minutes on the phone, they had opened a case file on my console, taken my address, phone etc...

Only a week later a box arrives complete with 360-specific packaging, intructions and a pre-paid shipping label. All I had to do was pack it up and drop it off at my local courrier. Got it back in about 2 or 3 weeks, and my refurb is still going strong today.

RE: Sux to be me ( & MS )
By psychobriggsy on 9/13/2008 8:36:49 PM , Rating: 2
Bet you enjoyed being without a product for those 4 weeks, right at the beginning!

All 360s that will eventually die should have been recalled, and if Microsoft couldn't replace them in time then the consumer should have been refunded the entirety of their spending on the console. Do you think this is harsh? I don't, I think it would force Microsoft to release hardware that worked in the future. Right now, I think they will do it again should they be in a situation where they feel they need to risk something like this.

"I f***ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it." -- Bungie Technical Lead Chris Butcher

Latest Headlines
Inspiron Laptops & 2-in-1 PCs
September 25, 2016, 9:00 AM
The Samsung Galaxy S7
September 14, 2016, 6:00 AM
Apple Watch 2 – Coming September 7th
September 3, 2016, 6:30 AM
Apple says “See you on the 7th.”
September 1, 2016, 6:30 AM

Most Popular ArticlesAre you ready for this ? HyperDrive Aircraft
September 24, 2016, 9:29 AM
Leaked – Samsung S8 is a Dream and a Dream 2
September 25, 2016, 8:00 AM
Yahoo Hacked - Change Your Passwords and Security Info ASAP!
September 23, 2016, 5:45 AM
A is for Apples
September 23, 2016, 5:32 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki