Special: Red rings... green screens... video game errors are like Christmas! Maybe not.
You have certainly already heard the reports, early Xbox 360s, mainly the Xenon-based units, are prone to failure at an astonishing rate, in their first year of service. The consumer electronic industry tries to keep their failure rates below 5%, something that Microsoft still claims they hit. Nevertheless, there have been numerous studies, scientific and not so scientific, which peg the failure rate of the early Xbox 360s as high as 33%
. It is this sad fact that caused me much dismay over the past two months, as my personal 360 finally succumbed to its own inadequacies on February 17th, 2008. Here is its story.
The system was purchased in late June 2006, a time when the failure rate was already rearing its ugly head. I was worried, so worried in fact, that I almost bought one of those ridiculous cooling devices
for the system, fearing that heat was probably one of the issues with the system (I mean that fan has to be at Tornado speeds for some reason, right?). After some research I realized that a number of things could go wrong, and decided to just risk it. I managed to go through those first few months of constant playing with no issues, then the holidays crept up on me, a time of marathon gaming sessions and disk swapping. No issues there. I thought I was free and clear, I had managed to score one of the GOOD old 360s. I was wrong.
The yearly gaming lull, Quarter 1 or the post-holiday period hit, and then the RRoD ate up my hours of Mass Effect
splicing abilities and Rock Band
jam sessions. I promptly curled up in a ball and cried myself to sleep. February 17th, formerly known as the day before my brother's birthday, occasionally as Michael Jordan's birthday, will now forever be known as RRoD day to me, the day my Xbox died. Promptly, I dried my tears, blew my nose, and called Microsoft.
It took an agonizing 15 minutes of screaming at the phone, begging it to recognize my voice as a humans and performing its useless level 1 tech support before I could finally reach a homo sapien. At that point I was raving mad, the Irish kind of mad. You know, red in the face, spittle flying off my lips at the end of every sentence. Yea, that kind of angry. I have never done well with phone tech support which is odd because I provide it from time to time. My main issue is that no matter how much I show the person on the phone that I am a capable technician (I tear apart, build and refurbish computers for a hobby, and did the same thing to arcade cabinets for years as a profession) I get put through the standard rhetoric. It is their job, I know, but the lady on the phone did her jobs five times over. I was asked my address five times, I started counting after the third time. To top it off, apparently my house doesn't exist so they just "risked it" and sent the empty box there. Forty minutes after calling Microsoft and I had managed to achieve the chance to be a recipient of an empty box in 3-5 days. With a sigh of hope of it returning to me with a Green Ring of Working Xbox 360 I closed my cellphone.
Seven days go by, still no box. Calmly I go through the voice system again and was politely informed that UPS had messed up the shipment and it would be there on the 26th, a Tuesday, instead of the 23rd. "Why not Monday" I ask. "Talk to UPS about shipping issues" I am told. I angrily flip
my cellphone shut and wait it out. Sometimes I miss having a real phone, the ones you can slam. Slam like an NES controller after dying at the dam in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
...again. The 26th rolls on by and I am greeted at home by a discrete white box that is unusually light, the return packaging. Following the instructions to a T, I remove the harddrive, place the Xbox in its anti-static bag and tape everything up before dropping it off at a Staples store with a UPS inside. It is February 27th. At this point in time I am more worried than ever.
Yes, I have the receipt proving I dropped off the package, but what if it gets lost, destroyed or slips behind the driver's seat the day that he has had enough
and drives into the Schuylkill River. The highly-toxic waters destroying any evidence of my transactions with UPS and Microsoft...All I have is a slip of paper, that shit can disintegrate! I call Microsoft to let them know that the eagle is in its nest, and decide to see if I could somehow swing a NEW
Xbox 360, one with fancy new chipset. No I am told, not even if I paid them the difference of a Pro versus Elite package. Why not? ??Porqu? no?! ??Porqu? no?!
Three to five weeks I was told. That is how long the whole process will take. Don't they understand I am a game journalist? That is an eternity in the gaming world! Lucky for me, the weeks were a slow period for Xbox 360, and the span was broken up by my first trip
to the Game Developers Conference.
It is March 17th, a full month after first contact, less than five weeks, more than three. I am greeted at the door by the same box I had sent to Area 51 some weeks before. Promptly, I hook everything up and boom, Mass Effect
loads my saved game from weeks prior with no issues. Infinite glee!
Despite my nervousness, anxiety and, let's be frank, outright terror at sending my console away, everything has been roses since then. The tech support was annoying, but they were courteous the entire time and they did their job as they were supposed to. I may not have received the same treatment as say, the guy who emailed Bill Gates directly
, but the end result was the same. Now all I have to worry about is my "fixed" Xbox 360 failing again in a few months. Why don't they make things like they used to