Public Service Announcement – Xbox 360 RROD – Go Buy A Playstation

As a public service announcement, and to vent my irritation, I’d like to inform everyone what a ridiculous experience I have had with Microsoft and my Xbox 360 and suggest you don’t buy one, and not just because of my experience, but because of the frequency in which these units seem to completely fail as I discovered in researching this issue on the internet.

There is a well-known “general hardware failure” that is so common it is referred to by gamers as the RROD, “red ring of death, the “red lights of death” and the “red ring of doom” based on the three red lights in a circle that appear on your Xbox when it happens. When this happens, your unit is bricked, worthless, unrecoverable.

I got mine in June of 2007. It comes with a one year standard warranty. The RROD became so common that Microsoft extended the warranty on their units from one year to three years. My warranty ended in June, 2010. My Xbox bricked, due to the RROD in October, 2010…exactly four months outside the warranty.

As if that isn’t bad enough, when I emailed Xbox to argue for an in-warranty repair, all I received in response was a form letter email with a link on how to submit a repair request. The link was broken and didn’t work. I replied stating the link was broken and received the exact same form letter email again with the exact same broken link with no acknowledgment at all of my original email or my reply. Apparently, this lack of response from Microsoft is quite common.

I called Xbox and spoke to India. After 10 minutes of being read repeated scripts of how my unit is out of warranty and would cost $119 to repair, I ended the call abruptly.

From what I have read on the Internet, the cause of the RROD is unknown, but many believe it is related to how a certain chip was soldered to the board in the unit. Repeated heating and cooling of the unit expands and contracts the solder joints and cracks them causing the failure. It is believed that it is more common in units that overheat due to dust buildup and lack of ventilation.

Microsoft originally claimed the failure rate was within industry norms, I believe somewhere around 3%. However, Microsoft will not release exactly how many units have failed so we just don’t know. One analysis based on how much Microsoft reserved in cash for in-warranty repairs suggests they anticipate a 1 in 3 failure rate. That is in-line with several other estimates claiming a 30% to 50% failure rate.

That is an obscene,criminally high failure rate. We are talking about a $400 investment, $60 per game and a $99 wireless antenna and any other controllers or charges you might buy. If you have just five games, you’ve invested $1,000, and Microsoft is only promising you three years of life out of the unit. Most people will have a library of games by then, 10, 20 games or more.  So at the end of three years, if your unit suffers an RROD failure…what do you do? You now have more than $2,000 sunk into this unit with a library of games that are useless on any other kind of machine. Most people will suck it up, bite their tongue and fork over another $119 to Microsoft for the repair, cursing them as they do it.

Microsoft is BETTING on this. Betting that you will be too far invested by buying games and controllers and what not, to back out and switch systems.

By extending the warranty by two more years, all they did was placate a growing mob of angry Xbox users and give them more time to buy the rope they’ll hang themselves with. By making the switching costs ridiculously high, you will just suck it up and hand over even more money for a problem Microsoft created, knows about and has a 1 in 3 chance of happening to you. Outrageous.

Here’s my problem, and I have many.

First, Microsoft is well aware of this problem and rather than do a recall, they extended the warranty. Like any business they ran the numbers and calculated that there is a more than likely chance most units will fail outside of the warranty, so Microsoft won’t have to pay anything, but they needed to do something because of all the bad publicity regarding their RROD so they tossed a bone at us by extending the warranty to three years. Then they crossed their fingers and prayed that most of the RROD failures would happen beyond that time and when they did happen, you’d have 100 games.

Second, they are adamant that anyone outside of the warranty is not granted something most of us would consider a “customer service” extension. Most companies, in order to keep their customers happy, and more importantly, keep coming back and buying more, go that extra mile to exchange something that’s beyond the return date, or discount something, or offer something in lieu of, etc… Xbox has taken a militant approach that does not allow for any of this. I believe this is because they are aware of just how high the failure rate is and that most will happen just beyond the warranty and so absolutely do not want to pay to have this well-known, well documented, ridiculously high failure rate cost them a penny more than it already has.

Third, they will not publish the failure rate numbers. A company would only do that if the numbers were shockingly high and would tank their sales. So not publishing them is the same as agreeing with the failure estimates out on the internet.

Fourth, I am not a gamer. I’m almost 40. In the three years I’ve owned the unit, I’ve bought five games and downloaded maybe three. I play no more than 5 hours a month and some months I don’t play at all. I use it to stream Netflix maybe twice a month. That’s it. I think in anyone’s mind, I would be considered an extremely infrequent user. Also, the unit is on top of  table in a well ventilated area. You could eat off of it, there is no dust anywhere on it. It’s never been dropped or damaged in any way. And yet, my unit bricked thanks to the RROD only four months outside of the warranty. This means, there was no way for me to prevent it, and no way for you to either. It is completely up to dumb luck.

Lastly, their customer service is atrocious. You can only choose from hearing scripts read to you from India or send emails that generate auto-replies and have broken links in them that go to pages on the Xbox website that say, “Oops, this page has been moved.”

I would seriously evaluate whatever unit you are going to buy and consider not only the failure rate for Xbox, but also the way in which Microsoft handled the problem betting that most people will be too invested by the time the unit broke to not get it fixed, knowing full well that the likelihood of failure was extremely high.

I refuse to be part of this strategy from Microsoft. I will eBay the controllers, the hard drive, the charger, the few games I have and the wireless antenna and put that money towards a new Playstation or Wii.

Microsoft Xbox will never see another penny from me.

Categories: Personal Message, Random Thoughts

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3 replies

  1. Man the more I research I don’t feel like an isolated case. Same age range and I may play maybe 6-10 hours a month. My system contracted the RROD and the games began. MS has had it for a month and just emailed me that my warranty was voided by tampering with the console? I bought it NIB from Best Buy and it has not left my home so I must question, how did it get tampered with?? I have spent time with calls to the support line, wow what a frustrating experience. I can only imagine that they decided it was easier to void my warranty than to stand by their ill-designed product. I am waiting on them to mail my “tampered” with system back. I will be filing a complaint with the BBB and debating on small claims court, don’t know what else to do.

    • I feel your pain. Even after I went and switched to a PlayStation and called Microsoft to cancel my XBox Live subscription, it took me almost an hour to get it done. You would think it would be simple…”I’d like to cancel,” “Ok, you are canceled.” The Rep was a talker and kept asking me all sorts of questions about why I am leaving, did I try this and that…irritating…I’ve heard of barriers to entry but I’ve never dealt with barriers to exit. I just want to get as far away from anything to do with XBox as possible. I’ll eBay all my games and components, get what I can for them and never touch an XBox again. It’s all a consumer can really do; talk with your dollars.

  2. Thank you ffor writing this

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