Whew, i actually kinda surprised when i read this.
Over 18 million Xbox 360s have sold through since the console’s launch in November 2005, but just how many of those are still working? Squaretrade, a company that specializes in providing warranty support to purchasers of electronic goods from various manufacturers, claims 16% of Xbox 360s experience a hardware failure within six to ten months after a warranty purchase. Three out of every five failures were for the infamous “Red Ring of Death” general hardware failure error, a problem often linked to overheating.
The Xbox’s figures compare poorly to competing consoles, which have a failure rate of around 3% — and if anything, the Squaretrade figure underestimates the scale of the Xbox 360’s reliability issues. It’s a good bet that some buyers of Squaretrade warranties went straight to Microsoft after experiencing hardware issues and don’t factor into the 16% number. On its company blog, Squaretrade pointed out that failure rates are “certain to go up” as the machines in their study group grow older.
Microsoft is cagey about coughing up official failure rate figures, which has lead some commentators to speculate about the actual severity of the problem. Luke Plunkett, a blogger on respected games news site Kotaku, said in a recent post that if the real failure rate wasn’t in the 30-40% range, he’d “wolf down humble pie until his sides split.”
Plunkett’s sides are likely safe. Stories of 360 owners making their way through eight or nine consoles aren’t hard to find, but to its credit, Microsoft has been working with the affected individual in at least one of those cases to lessen the impact of the constant failures.
Even so, there’s a surprise lurking for consumers who return their 360s for repair. When you purchase content — arcade games, extra tracks, etc. — over Xbox Live, it’s playable by any user on the console you used to make the transaction. If you go to a different console and sign in with your gamertag, you can download the content and play it only for as long as you’re signed in. Once you move back to your main machine, it will no longer be playable. Sounds like a handy system to let you take the content you own from place to place, right?
But the trick with this system is that once a broken machine returns from its little vacation, it generally has sufficient internal changes to make it look, to Xbox Live, like a different console. So all your downloaded content — which, if you’re a heavy user, could amount to hundreds of dollars worth of purchases — are only accessible to one gamertag, and only when the console has a live internet connection.
Getting this situation resolved can be difficult. Affected users have reported having to make repeated calls to the Xbox support line, often to no avail. Some fortunate individuals were able to eventually convince the MS reps to refund all the points they’d spent so they could repurchase all the affected content, although they had to do it using a different gamertag.