Print 172 comment(s) - last by rushfan2006.. on Jul 9 at 10:58 AM

Nearly one in every three Xbox 360 consoles fail, according to retailer reports

By several metrics, the Xbox 360 is the most successful console so far of this generation. Despite the startling pace of the Wii, the Xbox 360 still has the most consoles sold worldwide and the longest list of games and exclusives. For a gamer looking for online-enabled high-definition gaming today, the Xbox 360 appears to satisfy those needs.

One often overlooked factor when considering a console purchase is reliability, an area that is apparently where the Xbox 360 falls short. Anecdotal evidence is heavily pointing to Microsoft’s latest console as being significantly more prone to failure than what consumers are accustomed to.

Microsoft has said before that its Xbox 360 failure rate falls within three to five percent, what it believes to be well within industry standards. Internet reports from Xbox 360 owners, however, suggest that the failure rate is much higher than that.

In an effort to gain a more accurate picture of Xbox 360 failure rate, DailyTech decided to poll retail outlets that sell the Xbox 360 and with it the option to purchase an in-store extended warranty. Out of all Xbox 360 extended warranties sold, we wanted to know how many were claimed by consumers with defective consoles, thus giving us a more accurate failures percentage.

After contacting several retailers from various regions in North America, the responses were unanimous: the Xbox 360 is the least reliable gaming console in recent history. Current EB Games or GameStop employees who offered information did so under strict anonymity, as it is against company policy to reveal such information to the public. Furthermore, our sources confirmed that EB Games revised its Canadian warranty policies during early 2007 for consoles solely due to the failure rate of the Xbox 360.

EB Games held conference calls for its Canadian stores informing them of the new policy changes and revealing alarming failure rates of the Xbox 360. “The real numbers were between 30 to 33 percent,” said former EB Games employee Matthieu G., adding that failure rate was even greater for launch consoles. “We had 35 Xbox 360s at launch I know more than half of them broke within the first six months (red lights or making circles under the game discs). Two of them were dead on arrival.”

Interestingly, Microsoft has acknowledged that the initial batch of Xbox 360 consoles made during the launch window suffer from below average reliability. In response to an overwhelming defect rate of launch consoles, Microsoft agreed to repair all machines manufactured in 2005 free of charge, and issue a refund for those who already paid for repairs of launch units up until January 1, 2006.

The three flashing red lights – commonly referred to in gaming communities as the “Red Ring of Death” – is a sign of an Xbox 360 hardware failure. The sign is apparently common enough that Microsoft has added an option to its 1-800-4MY-XBOX support line that names “three flashing red lights” specifically.

As a result of the high failure rate of the Xbox 360, EB Games corporate nearly doubled the prices of its one-year, over-the-counter warranty. While the previous warranty would give a customer a brand new console in exchange for the broken one, the new policy now states that the customer will receive a refurbished console instead. The move was made because it was becoming too costly for the retailer to give the customer a brand-new machine, which still carries a store cost close to the MSRP. The price increase and policy change wasn’t exclusive to only the Xbox 360, however, as it also applies to all other Sony and Nintendo consoles sold.

The failure rate nearing a third of all Xbox 360 consoles was found at other retailers too. A Best Buy customer service department manager, who wished to remain unnamed, said that failure rates for the console were “between a quarter to a third” of all units sold.

“We see a ton of [Xbox 360s] come back all the time. We strongly push our customers to buy our service plans no matter what they buy, but it is especially important for them with the Xbox 360,” said the manager. “It’s a lucky thing for us that Microsoft extended the factory warranty to one year, because we were having a hell of a time dealing with the launch units. Now we don’t have to deal with those broken [Xbox 360s] until their second year, for those who have purchased the two year plans.”

In late 2006, Microsoft boosted the warranty of all Xbox 360 consoles to one year, up from 90-days previously. For gamers who are out of warranty, however, a replacement or repair will cost Xbox 360 customers $140.

When compared against other systems, the Xbox 360 is failing at higher rates than its current competitors and predecessors. Former EB Games worker Matthieu G. said that the failure rates for all other consoles were not high enough for the retailer to consider revising its policies, and guesses that most other console systems have a failure rate of less than one percent, including the PlayStation 3. Another EB Games manager, when asked if the store warranty was worth it, conceded that in the hundreds of Wii units sold at that location thus far, zero have come back as defective.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that the Xbox 360 is a relatively unreliable games machine, Microsoft officials refuse to comment on its failure rate. Peter Moore, VP of Microsoft’s entertainment division, said to the Mercury News, “I can’t comment on failure rates, because it’s just not something  – it’s a moving target. What this consumer should worry about is the way that we’ve treated him. Y’know, things break, and if we’ve treated him well and fixed his problem, that’s something that we’re focused on right now. I’m not going to comment on individual failure rates because I’m shipping in 36 countries and it’s a complex business.”

Similar questions regarding the Xbox 360 hardware met with the man responsible for the design of the console, Todd Holmdahl. He too sidestepped the issue with the Mercury News, saying, “I would say we don’t have a high defect rate. The vast majority of people are really excited about their product, and that we are targeting profitability for next year.”

Asked differently about whether or not the Xbox 360 falls into the ‘normal’ three to five percent return rate, Holmdahl said, “We don’t disclose the actual number,” and “We don’t comment on that.”

No piece of technology, no matter how well designed, should be expected to completely free of failure. The key metric is whether or not a product falls within industry standards of acceptable failure rates – and from findings based off retailer-supported warranty returns, the actual rate of failures could be six to ten times greater than what Microsoft is letting on.

Regardless of what the actual failure rate is, there is consumer perception that the Xbox 360 is a less reliable machine than its competitors. That fact alone should encourage Microsoft to do more than just avoid all comments on failures and only preach on the wonderful experience of its consumer base.

Comments     Threshold

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

By bkm32 on 7/3/2007 2:07:20 PM , Rating: 3
Even with all of the problems that Sony appears to be having, reliablilty isn't one of them. This is extremely impressive considering that the PS3 is the most advanced videogame console system of all-time. It has an unseasoned "bleeding edge" CPU and disc drive (the Cell and Blu-Ray, respectively), but Sony has managed to keep a fairly high reliabilty rating, relative to MS.

Typically, products at the "bleeding edge" ususally have very high defect rates. This hasn't been the case with the PS3; it has with the X360, though, and that's made of completely COTS components.

Perhaps the issue is that MS is a software company and not a hardware company. Although MS produced the first XBOX, it did not design it. Peter Moore commented on this in reference to possible price drops of the X360 prior to its launch.

At any rate, it appears that the X360 (Pro and Core versions, for now) is a poorly designed console that's great to develop for, sells extremely well, and has excellent Customer Service.

I hope MS can correct its reliability issues before Halo3 hits; otherwise MS is going to find itself with a lot of angry would-be Spartans. Although, that is one sure-fired way to keep server traffic down. Curse you, Ballmer! You're always one step ahead of me!

RE: Impressive
By tigen on 7/3/2007 10:20:54 PM , Rating: 2
You have no basis to claim poor design. The technology level is completely beside the point if the manufacturing is unreliable. The use of lead-free solder was said to be the cause of many 360 failures.

The PS3 is just as much COTS. The 360 has unique CPU and GPU designs, whereas the PS3 is based on a commercial GPU.

RE: Impressive
By bkm32 on 7/4/2007 9:03:34 AM , Rating: 2
Listen, dude. I'm not flamebaiting or anything. I actually want an X360 Elite, but I'm extremely apprehensive about investing $600+ on a system that could very well breakdown after 6 months of just light use. I've never, ever, ever had a console breakdown or stop working, ever, and I've been playing and owning videogame consoles for over 29 years (I still have a working Atari VGS replete with wood-panelling).

I dislike Sony and some of their tactics. I'm a Sega fan at heart, and Sony killed Sega consoles, but I digress. I'm not a Nintendo fan, either. I want an X360 very much and love MS. MS is responsible for single-handedly bringing the PC to everyone's home, and it's an American (happy 4th, BTW) company at the forefront of IT, electronics tech, and business systems.

Just to be clear, design includes not only the chipset, but the architecture, component interfaces, manufacturing , maintainability, reliability, plus any room for improvement of any of the above.

I'm an engineer; I know this. An ideal design is one that allows for the best in all of these areas. A good design takes all of these into account and "compromises" some areas for others but not at the complete loss of any area. A poor design neglects either one or more of these and/or compromises too much of one or more areas for another.

It's obvious (at least anecdotally) that MS compromised cost and schedule for manufacturing, maintainability, and reliability. The logistics and operations tails of a product most often incurs the most cost for the end user. This means that over the life a product, it will cost the end user more to operate (electricity, manpower, time, etc.) and sustain (keep in operation via repairs or scheduled maintainence) than the initial purchase. This holds true for a videogame console, house, automobile, F-22, etc.

This is a fact. Most consumers don't realize this, but most producers do. Therefore, it's in the producers best interest to keep this info off of the consumers "radar", so to speak and to develop products that have the lowest logistics and operational costs (to the consumer) as possible. MS is not doing this. This "poor design" has drawn attention to the X360's logistical and operational consumer costs and have actually proven to be greater than the PS3's. Sure the PS3 has a higher initial cost, but it's lifecycle cost is much lower than the X360's lifecycle cost has proven to be.

That's my basis for claiming "poor design". Oh yeah, that, plus the poor folks that have had to return their X360s more than once, the retailers that are losing money on return policies, and the fact that MS redesigned the Elite and has been sending redesigned X360s back to customers.

BTW, the MS components are all COTS; they are not "bleeding edge", untested components like the Blu-Ray drive and Cell processor. The PS3 is the first implementation (separately or integrated) of these technologies, ever. The X360's CPU and GPU are slight modifications to upgrade 4-5 year-old components. One more thing, I never said anything about the PS3's GPU. Everyone already knows its a COTS component.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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