Hall of Fame
Xbox 360 defects: an inside history of Microsoft’s video game console woesSlashdot said:VentureBeat has a lengthy story about the situation surrounding the Xbox 360's "Red Ring of Death." It starts with the developmental phases for the 360, looks at the marketing decisions that drove Microsoft to aim for a release ahead of the PS3, and talks with sources and engineers within Microsoft about what could have been done to prevent the problems.
"Leading up to the launch in the fall of 2005, the number of defective units would soon grow to tens of thousands. Any other consumer electronics company would likely have postponed a launch with such low yields. But Microsoft had more money in the bank than anyone else. The decision this time would fall to Bach and Moore. The costs of launching with low yields -- where you take big losses on every product sold -- could bankrupt other companies. But Microsoft could afford to do so. Microsoft did delay the launch date from October until November. But some inside the company still believed returns would be out of control."
When his fourth Xbox 360 video game console died in April, Chris Szarek wasn’t surprised.
The Chicopee, Mass. gamer was accustomed to the hardware failures that became known throughout the Internet as RROD, or the “red rings of death” which flash when the console becomes inoperable.
A 40-year-old photographer, Szarek was a hardcore Microsoft fan who spent more than $1,000 on his games. But each time one of his Xbox 360 consoles failed, he had to spend time convincing Microsoft’s tech support that they should send him a new console. Each time he got a refurbished console as a replacement (a machine that had been returned to a repair center in Texas, fixed as much as possible, and then shipped back out). When he complained on the Internet and to the media about the shoddy product and poor customer service, people branded him a cry baby and wrote him off as a statistical anomaly. But by the spring of 2008, Szarek was vindicated. There were at least a million or two other people like him.
Szarek’s fourth machine lasted almost two years, experiencing the same short life that many other Xbox 360s suffered. Microsoft replaced these machines for free under the warranty that it announced on July 5, 2007, for defective Xbox 360s exhibiting what it more politely called the “three flashing red lights.” That warranty program cost Microsoft up to $1.15 billion, but the loss of face and loyalty among gamers in the fierce console war with Nintendo and Sony has been immeasurable. Szarek, who became a spokesman for dispossessed defective Xbox 360 owners, played a part in making Microsoft acknowledge its console quality problem.
This is the unauthorized tale of how Microsoft lost its chance to become the leader in the biggest market it has attacked beyond its twin monopolies in Office and Windows software. Rival game console maker Nintendo out-thought the larger players Microsoft and Sony by designing the Wii game console with a clever, intuitive game controller. Even so, Microsoft could have captured more gamers during this product generation, yet the RROD problem held it back. The Xbox 360’s defect problem will go down as one of the worst snafus in consumer electronics history.
How many of you or people you know have had failed Xbox machines?Microsoft knew it had flawed machines, but it did not delay its launch because it believed the quality problems would subside over time.
“Fundamentally, their thinking shows that they are a software company at heart,” said one veteran manufacturing executive. “They put something out and figure they can fix it with the next patch or come up with a bug fix.”