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Xbox 360 failures are on the rise since the launch of the New Xbox Experience

A known Xbox 360 hardware issue is beginning to surface in significant numbers recently based on research conducted by video game site Joystiq. Tentatively called the Xbox 360 E74 error, one of the lights on the “Ring of Lights” on the front of your Xbox 360 console flashes red and you receive the error code and message: "E74. System Error. Contact Xbox Customer Support". The symptoms involve the bottom right portion of the indicator ring repeatedly flashing on and off and lines or snow will become visible across the screen.

According to the initial Joystiq article posted on March 13, the Microsoft representative Joystiq contacted told them she wasn't familiar with the problem and that they were looking in to the issue. The E74 error is a known issue that is recognized by Microsoft and is documented on Microsoft’s own support site complete with diagrams. The support site has a last revised time stamp of March 3, 2009 as of this writing, predating the Joystiq article that broke the story.

Microsoft’s support site provides no explanation for the error other than to state, “This behavior occurs when the Xbox 360 console experiences a hardware failure.” Joystiq theorizes the E74 error is related to a hardware video problem where the ANA/HANA scaling chip on Xbox 360s equipped with HDMI functionality has come loose.

The main theory put forward that tries to explain why this particular hardware issue is being seen more frequently is the increased graphical stress caused by the introduction of the New Xbox Experience. The New Xbox Experience was launched on November 19 and provided Xbox Live users with a complete rework of the user interface.

One of the significant changes introduced by the New Xbox Experience was the removal of the blade interface. The blades allowed users to access pages of information and features quickly due to the fact they are stacked on top of each other. The new interface uses full windows to spread out the screen.

Another significant change introduced by the New Xbox Experience was the implementation of a graphical avatar system. Users are allowed to choose their avatar from a large group; each avatar is dressed differently, has a unique hair style, and skin color. Once you have chosen your avatar, you are allowed to customize it with new clothing, accessories, and hair. The stress caused by these visual changes may be what is taking many Xbox 360s to the breaking point for unlucky customers.

An interesting pattern can be seen on a Google Trends chart that shows a noticeable spike in users researching the E74 error in November 2008 right around the launch of the New Xbox Experience.

Joystiq’s analysis of survey respondents show a similar pattern of increased E74 failures starting in November of last year. A conspiracy theory making the rounds speculates Microsoft may have changed the system diagnostics test to report Red Ring of Death error as E74 instead to save money. For errors reported as E74, it would force customers to pay $100 for the repair if the error occurs later than 12 months after purchase. The E74 error is not covered under the 3-year extended warranty set in place for the Red Ring of Death malfunction. Joystiq points out that this theory is unlikely because survey respondents are still reporting Red Ring of Death errors after the launch of the New Xbox Experience.

On March 19, Joystiq posted Microsoft’s official response to the E74 issue where they stated:

E74 is a general hardware error on Xbox 360 indicated by a single red flashing light in the Xbox Ring of Light and an error message visible on the television. This error is unrelated to the three flashing red lights error and there is not a single root cause. We encourage anyone who receives this error to contact Xbox Customer support through www.xbox.com/support or 1-800-4-MY-XBOX. The majority of customers who own Xbox 360 consoles continue to have a terrific experience from their first day, and continue to, day in and day out.

As pointed out by Joystiq, Microsoft’s response fails to adequately answer what causes the E74 error, if there has been an increase in incidents, and why it is not covered while the Red Ring of Death is. The evidence is mounting as Joystiq has posted an update on March 23 showing E74 errors have definitely increased since the introduction of the New Xbox Experience. It remains to be seen how long it takes Microsoft to acknowledge there is an issue and deal with in a way that satisfies their current customers. As past history shows an adequate response may take time.

Microsoft’s top game executive, Robbie Bach, president of the Entertainment & Devices group, said at a dinner in July 2008 that Microsoft’s own research shows that gamers have largely forgiven the company for defective Xbox 360s. Depending on how this issue is handled current customers may not be so quick to forgive.



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By omnicronx on 3/24/2009 1:49:00 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
If any other companies have created as faulty a hardware as MS has, they would of gone out of business by now.
I'm not trying to defend MS here, next time around their business will suffer because of their shotty hardware, but it seems many people (including yourself) seem to be losing your long term memory.

The PS2 had a terrible launch failure rate. Remember the Red box PS2's? Yep, many of them failed within a year of purchase, or would not read certain coloured bottom discs.
The difference being Sony did not replace many peoples consoles if it was after one year, I remember having to sit on the phone for 2 hours before I got someone that was willing to send me a new console. These figures were never widely released to the public, but Sony definitely acknowledged the issue, and I did get a free PS2 because of it. It was estimated the first year of PS2 failures was as high was 20%, although it fell dramatically after that (to well under 5%, some say as low as 1-2%).

This was the reason I was originally swayed to the 360 (i bought it before my PS3), although I am now finding myself using my PS3 a lot more.


RE: Microsoft needs to get out of Console business
By chick0n on 3/24/09, Rating: 0
By omnicronx on 3/24/2009 4:06:04 PM , Rating: 3
The 360 is in a league of its own that is for sure, but that was not the point of my post. The PS2 definitely had its own share of problems, and yet it turned out to be the best selling console ever. Unfortunately people do forget about the past, and while certain people may not take a chance with the next 360, some people surely will.


RE: Microsoft needs to get out of Console business
By gss4w on 3/24/2009 9:26:44 PM , Rating: 4
I think the reliability problems with the Xbox 360 probably won't have much impact on sales of whatever the next Xbox is named. After all, people are still buying 360's even though it is well known to have reliability problems. Also Microsoft has handled the faults with the 360 relatively well with extending the warranty, so that will make people who had a 360 go bad be less apprehensive about buying the next console.


By TheDoc9 on 3/25/2009 10:31:57 AM , Rating: 3
It's pretty sad when people are still willing to buy the console when they're aware of such a poorly constructed piece of hardware. It either says a lot about the competition or a lot about the people.


RE: Microsoft needs to get out of Console business
By BZDTemp on 3/24/2009 5:51:34 PM , Rating: 1
Also pretty important there are still new games coming for the PS2 something which can not be said for the XBOX.

Microsoft could not kill the XBOX fast enough and I am sure the same thing will happen to the 360. Sony in contrast has stated the PS3 is gonna be here for a long time (and it is build to last).


By Hiawa23 on 3/24/2009 6:29:11 PM , Rating: 2
Also pretty important there are still new games coming for the PS2 something which can not be said for the XBOX.

Microsoft could not kill the XBOX fast enough and I am sure the same thing will happen to the 360. Sony in contrast has stated the PS3 is gonna be here for a long time (and it is build to last).


come on, MS had to put the Xbox1 to bed as soon as they could as it wasn't making them money, Nvidia was killing them with each console sold, so I understand why they had to put that to bed, & yeah there are games mostly multiplatform games coming to the PS2, but honestly, the last PS2 I was interested in was GOW2. MS, despite the reliability issues with the 360 is still in a better position than they were with the Xbox, & everytime I hear someone say this so called 10 year lifespan makes no sense to me cause I usually move on when a new console comes, & I don't consider the PS2 having a 10 year lifespan when the little games that do get released are usually crap stuff.


By StevoLincolnite on 3/24/2009 10:34:13 PM , Rating: 3
In 2008, games were still being released for the original Xbox, so really it wasn't killed off that quickly! (Madden 09 comes to mind).

Still it took years after the Sega Dreamcast died and publishers were still releasing games for it.


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