Make the Case Editorial:
Monday: Why 360 is a success - Tuesday: PS3 is a failure
Thursday: Why 360 is a failure - Friday: PS3 is a success
Photo credit: Michael T. Gilbert/Flickr
Xbox 360 may have stronger sales numbers
, a slightly cheaper price tag, a couple more third-party exclusives and Netflix Instant Queue support, but Microsoft's failure with gamers comes in the form of TRUST. That all-important quality assurance aspect has eluded the company since the system launched in 2005 with, by some accounts, up to 33% of 360s suffering from the infamous ?Red Ring of Death.?
It really says something when even the most fervent Xbox 360 fanboys readily admit RDoD failures, detailing in countless forum posts how they turned on their favorite system only to see the front panel's green lights display red instead. While these game playing partisans wouldn't say anything else negative about their system of choice, they don't deny their tales of Xbox 360's irreversible death sentence and their angst in getting a replacement system back from Microsoft.
But, what about the two-thirds of Xbox 360s that haven't gone through the RRoD hassle? That's the untold story.
For whatever reason, I haven't experienced such an incident, and from talking to my peers every year at E3, I seem to be the only technology journalist with an original launch Xbox 360 who hasn't fallen victim to the RRoD. I couldn't even find someone else in a similar situation to help expand this story, so I had to use myself as the example. Maybe my Xbox 360 is like that small village in northern Italy
where everyone is healthy despite their diets thanks to miracle genes. Maybe my system is also a scientific miracle and should be sent back to Microsoft for further study. Unfortunately, I don't think that's the case and, as a result, every day that turn on my system to review games, I fear the inevitability of the RRoD.
It doesn't stop with RRoD: Broken Trust, Broken Controllers
Now, just because I haven't had a complete system failure doesn't mean I haven't experienced Xbox 360-related hardware issues. One of my wireless Xbox 360 controllers no longer syncs with the system, despite the fact that both power on just fine. Yes, I've tried pressing the two sync buttons in a variety of ways; they just don't play nice (or play at all). I turned to Google and, low and behold, the Internet is filled with people having the same hardware malfunction.
While the Internet is filled with makeshift solutions for a RRoD and details on how to send a bricked system back to Microsoft, no one has an improvised solution for fixing an unsyncable wireless controller. Worse yet, Microsoft doesn't offer a replacement for this hardware out of warranty. It hasn't hit the catastrophic one-third mark, so the company isn't extending support beyond, ?Can you try syncing your controller with a different system? It doesn't work? Well, we can't explain what's happening and don't cover controllers past warranty.?
It wouldn't be so bad if my wireless controller stopped working altogether. But, both it and the console turn on and function, just not with each other. Now, other gamers and I are down one controller.
Beyond Hardware Failures: Scratched Discs
DVDs have been the primary medium for video games ever since PlayStation 2 launched in 2000, but a recently filed lawsuit claims that Microsoft was aware that the Xbox 360 can scratch discs while they spin inside of the console. Like the RRoD incident, the system was rushed out the door for launch and the problem wasn't sufficiently addressed. As a result, 55,000 incidents have been reported, according to a statement that Microsoft gave to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
And, these disc scratching incidents have nothing to do with the faulty Halo 3 Limited Edition cases that showed up on people's doorsteps with fatal scuff marks.
The Simpsons The Wii did it
Beyond the widespread fear of Xbox 360 hardware failure, Microsoft stripped its system of two features that Nintendo included in its casual-friendly Wii console. If you know anything about Wii's limited capabilities (some people call it GameCube 1.5), it's never a good thing when the Wii seems more advanced than your system in any respect. The first way is a wireless receiver, which allows the console to connect to the Internet without running a Cat5 cable through the house. Both PS3 and Wii include this inside the system; Xbox 360 owners have to pay for an add-on adapter. On top of that, it costs $99 in stores and hasn't dropped one red cent since it launched alongside the system in 2005.
So, that $100 you're saving by buying the Xbox 360 instead of the PS3? You now saved $.01.
But, wait, what about the entry-level Xbox 360 Arcade at $199? Aren't I still saving another $100 somewhere since PS3 costs $399? Well, the Xbox 360 Arcade includes a small memory card instead of a hardware drive. Since the small memory card is a mere 256 MB and the Wii's internal flash drive is double that at 512 MB, that's the second area in which Wii outperforms some Xbox 360 models. So, the hardware drive-equipped Xbox 360 Pro model at $299 is the only fair comparison to consoles like PS3. Add in the price of the wireless adapter and now we're playing a fair ball game at $399.
Sadly, even if you
buy an Xbox 360 with a hard drive, its absence in the consoles of Arcade owners still effects you because it presents a challenge to developers of downloadable games who have to stay below a mandated 150 MB limit. Remember, Arcade model owners only have a 256 MB memory card, and you have to endure some of the limitations, too. Case in point, Capcom reported difficulty (since resolved) with keeping Street Fighter II Turbo HD under that file size. In the end, both you and game developers have to bow to Microsoft's failure to include nothing more than a memory card in cheaper Xbox 360 models.
Again, when you're being beaten by the Wii when it comes to hardware capability out of the box, you can't necessarily claim victory.
Xbox 360 is a tremendous gaming machine; I've enjoyed hours and hours of gameplay and Netflix streaming and hope to continue, as long as that green ring of light still spins. But I'm constantly bombarded with tales of hardware failures by people who've had the system for a while and complaints about having to buy an overpriced $99 wireless adapter by people who just received the console for Christmas. When I look at the PS3 and Wii, the failure rate doesn't chart. They're reliable consoles and that proven track record will go far.
Perhaps what's most telling is a conversation I had with a grandmother while waiting in line at my local GameStop: ?I'm buying a Wii for my grandson. He got the Red Death,? she said. She didn't get the name exactly right, but when a grandmother knows what RRoD is, it's not a ringing endorsement of trust. And, trust and reliability may prove decisive when critics determine the console winner at the end of this generation and when consumers purchase new machines based on past experiences in the next generation.