Xbox 360 failure fiasco explained in-depth

If there's one thing former San Jose Mercury-News writer Dean Takahashi knows, it's Microsoft's gaming hardware. In 2002, his book Opening the Xbox recapped the making of the software giant's first entry into the console game industry. Shortly after Microsoft launched its follow-up, Takahashi...

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If there's one thing former San Jose Mercury-News writer Dean Takahashi knows, it's Microsoft's gaming hardware. In 2002, his book Opening the Xbox recapped the making of the software giant's first entry into the console game industry. Shortly after Microsoft launched its follow-up, Takahashi followed suit with The Xbox 360 Uncloaked.

It's little surprise then that Takahashi, currently a writer for Silicon Valley blog VentureBeat, would be the guy to go whole-hog into the saga of the Xbox 360 hardware's ongoing reliability issues. In a newly published feature that Takahashi considers the final chapter of his Xbox 360 book, the reporter meticulously recounts how Microsoft launched a gaming system with unacceptably high failure rates and its attempts to address the problem.

In July of 2007, Microsoft publicly acknowledged the so-called "Red Ring of Death" issue and took a corresponding financial hit of more than $1 billion to fix it. Prior to that acknowledgement, Takahashi reports that Microsoft had taken returns on 1.2 million of the roughly 11.6 million shipped Xbox 360s. However, the problems responsible for that return rate had been around since before the console hit shelves.

Takahashi quotes a Microsoft engineer who raised the issue of hardware reliability in August of 2005, months before the system's November launch. At the time, 68 of every 100 Xbox 360s made by Microsoft's Chinese manufacturing partners were coming off the line nonfunctional. Worse still, when the first batch of the system's three-core CPUs rolled off the line, only 16 percent worked.

On top of that, Microsoft reportedly altered the design of the system repeatedly in the latter stages of development. The company added hard drives to most machines and made wireless controllers standard, further blocking cooling airflow inside the console. There were even issues with the QA machines that supposedly ensured the 360's system reliability. Takahashi reports that the machines would approve faulty units and were not properly debugged because Microsoft wanted to save $2 million on a $25 million contract with its third-party manufacturer.

"It turned out in the end that this was all going too far, too fast," an unnamed source told Takahashi. "They were adding too many features after things were locked down. That incremental feature adding just made it fragile."

The article goes on to say the post-launch shortage of Xbox 360 systems was due partly to Microsoft's inability to make enough functioning units to satisfy demand. In the spring of 2006, Microsoft had half a million returned or defective units sitting in warehouses, all while publicly stating that returns were within normal rates for consumer electronics.

Problems with quality control continued to plague the system, so much so that Microsoft actually ceased production of the Xbox 360 in 2007 between January and June to find and address the issue, according to the report. The production stoppage was also due to a surplus of systems at retailers from the prior holiday season, a fact which led to accusations of channel-stuffing on Microsoft's part.

As for what the ultimate culprit for the faulty console was, Takahashi reports it was a combination of factors. The ATI graphics chip had overheating issues, solder joints were prone to failure, and assembly and memory issues were widespread.

"The video game industry has never seen a consumer problem as bad as the 'red rings of death' and the size of the $1.15 billion charge stands as one of the biggest liability glitches in consumer electronics history," Takahashi wrote. "How Microsoft handled the flaw may provide a lesson for all modern electronics companies; that is, if you are going to promote the hell out of something, it better work the way you say it does, and you better have a strong customer support and engineering debugging team to back it up."

Discussion

1740 comments
slvrraven9
slvrraven9

this was a really good read. i own both consoles so when my 360 breaks i just play my ps3. unfortuntaly i still miss my 360 when its gone though

astro_viper
astro_viper

I own over 20 different consoles/handhelds and rebuild them for a hobby (haven't gone above a ps2 generation wise in rebuilds yet...contemplating the twilight hack on my WII. Honestly, no more than 2gig memory?! BS)...but I would never rebuild an xbox360...for that matter, even an exbox. MS uses cheap parts, and as has become clear, believes in poor customer service. I still remember the guy who was collecting money to send a crate full of broken exboxes back to MS as a statement...xbox360 owners should have caught wind of MS policy back during the last generation of consoles... Im not a fanboy of any console, I own from atari 2600 to virtualboy to wii. they all have their pros and cons, vocabularies, and potential. But sales figures won't sway me. I will never buy an exbox of any generation even if I'm missing out on a few good games...quality over quantity.

Daz1394
Daz1394

At my local youth club our 3RD!!!! xbox died ok the first 2 were not the red ring of death but the third was but it only gets used once a week so we are unsure how it got it...

bigM10231
bigM10231

i dont use the big power button i use the controller to turn off and on the console and i play it alot and my bro has had it for 3 years and still no RRoD

slipknot61174
slipknot61174

You know what? I was a loyal follower of all things Microsoft after I bought my Xbox. Reliable system, great library of games, better graphics than PS2. That loyalty followed through with my proud purchase of the 360 when it first came out. But my first letdown from Microsoft came when they promised the ability to play my vast catalog of games from Xbox on the 360. I guess I should've smelled the blood in the water then. I got rid of my Xbox then (and actually I've just gotten a new one... old school ftmfw!!!) in favor of the 360. When the games didn't play, I didn't cry, I still stuck to my 360 guns. For the next two years, it was my console of choice, and my love for the system grew by leaps and bounds. Even when I lucked up and got $700 free dollars to buy one of the first PS3s, I found myself playing 360 more. I'll admit, if they don't have anything else... they have games. But alas, all was not well. I started hearing rumors of the dreaded RRoD, and paranoia began to set in, even though I approached it with a sense of "it'll never happen to me, that's THEIR problem." About the middle of last year, I'd turn on my 360 on to hear this insane grinding noise. And believe me, I never dropped my system, kept it clean, put it on the highest pedestal, because it was MY 360!!! Suddenly, if there was a choice between platforms for a title, I'd force myself to buy it on PS3, because I didn't trust my 360 anymore. About two months later? I turned my 360 on for the last time. I had just bought Lost Odyssey, popped it in... and RRoD. This was how my loyalty was repaid? My heart was broken like I'd just gotten a dear john letter from Charlize Theron. Bottom line, Microsoft gave us a shotty system, knowing full well the thing is armed to self-destruct from the moment you turn it on. So here's the dilemma: Now I only have a PS3, because I refuse to hand Microsoft another hard earned dollar for the travesty they call Xbox 360. But 360 has all the games and exclusive stuff (you KNOW if there's a version for both consoles, PS3 is getting the shaft guaranteed). PS3 is a better made system with very few games, and what we do have as an exclusive is being bought out from under us by MS (Tekken 6? FFXIII? Is there no loyalty anymore?). Really bad situation for a hardcore gamer like myself. So while I respect the 360 with its awesome library, I also respect the PS3 for the potential it represents. So I guess I'm just about done with this "next" generation of games, because if piss poor systems whose manufacturers feel as if the best thing they can do to quell complaints is throw more money at developers and publishers instead of solving the hardware issues at hand (and yet they still rise to the top with sales), I want no parts of it. Quality over quantity, my friends. Nintendo said it best... even if they sold themselves out eventually with this Fat Kid Exercise Kit, i mean, er, Wii... If the MS way is the future, I'm going retro.

agni_1
agni_1

and if you are a PS3 fan wait for your company to file for bankruptcy....I would rather exp. a red ring of death and get a free console.

deadlyshadows
deadlyshadows

if u got xbox360....wait for Red Ring of Death hahaha

xlovekiller
xlovekiller

i`m a fan of xbox360, but i`m going to buy a ps3 !!!

remark666
remark666

maaan, where r the 360 fanboys now ? they love all the other topics about the ps3's, why not so many here? lol i dont really care what console is better, if u own x360 and love it thats awesome because i got my ps3 and im lovin it! 09 here we come, this year we'll have some great games

12345678ew
12345678ew

captainoflust Posted Jan 5, 2009 12:55 pm GMT yeah but for the price of a ps3 u can get a premium and an arcade. With 360 you get a decent live service (people actually talk and it doesn't suck lag) You get decent games not ported wack nonsense. (anyone see fallout 3 on ps3) Whatever don't get me started but xbox 360 controller is soo much better. I've seen fallout 3, and if you don't try to play on dial-up it runs perfectly. you can get a 40gb or even old 20 for under 200 bucks, then spend 20 bucks on a new sata or an external hard drive, either of which costs 40 bucks and you can then give it 200gb of storage.

captainoflust
captainoflust

yeah but for the price of a ps3 u can get a premium and an arcade. With 360 you get a decent live service (people actually talk and it doesn't suck lag) You get decent games not ported wack nonsense. (anyone see fallout 3 on ps3) Whatever don't get me started but xbox 360 controller is soo much better.

killkill3
killkill3

The xbox 360 is.... a failure Xbox 360 fanboys, you lose

geomyr
geomyr

thats why ps3 is more better than xbox 360 hehheeee

spiderfan80
spiderfan80

I have had the same 360 for 3yrs now. Got the RROD once. Don't bother sending it to microsoft cause there service is worthless. If any of you are even slightly good with electronics you could fix it yourself in fifteen minutes and save you a load of trouble.

allko
allko

Well my sister's fiance's xbox 360 had to be sent in due to errors with the hardrive. After that, they sent in a replacement system. Sadly, this one also has problems. It takes about 5 minutes (if were lucky) to connect the controller. The most i've spent was 10 minuets. Not to mention a couple of discs hes had scratched... Her fiance said he'll never buy another game console again because of the issues he has had with the xbox. However, the only problem I have had with my ps3 was when I was trying to hook up a bluetoot device ( it was rather old from my sis) all it did was make it take about 5 minutes to load the sytem from turning it on; a quick format fixed that problem. My sister's wii hasn't had any problems though... I have been looking to buy a xbox 360, but as with the others, very concerned about the errors...

rpg_lover_freak
rpg_lover_freak

btw to zain madori uncharted:drakes fortune used only 30% of the ps3 cpu power xD

kindofblue02
kindofblue02

yeah, this is why I will never buy one these consoles again. My ps3 and wii are still kicking strong

EverteMax
EverteMax

xbox has high failure rate...then ps3 has a limited game catalog...so what to do? just have to pick an apple that isn't so rotten

tlow0678
tlow0678

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

tlow0678
tlow0678

lol major slap in the face for 360 fanboys. just looking at all the thumb downs given to people who agree with this article is funny

The_Papa_T
The_Papa_T

it is definitely irritating to be a 360 owner and see PS3 owners get all these great games this year (MGS4, Resistance 2), and have virtually no hardware issues while literally all the people i know with a 360 (and myself) have had to deal with RROD at some point or another

Zain-Midori
Zain-Midori

XD microsoft will never fix this bug in my opinion they have the ring occur on purpose ...i mean ps3's hardware is damm near godly *almost sony nearly has it* 360 came out very early b4 any other system mean while ps3 and wii came out later now there wont be any new consels for say 9-10 yrs sony made ps3 to last for a looooonnnnng time XD i mean i still got my ps2 i put through hell and i got it first day it came out that baby run perfectly lol anyway ps3 has hardware that right now even developers cant even max out the ps3's potential yet lotta guys i know even the ones who prefer xbox cant picture what game will max out ps3's potential its like its infinte almost XD now since the 360 came out earlier it has some-what older hardware in it and ive been wondering how the hell will it keep up with ps3 in the long run and red rings of death r the anwser lol since they fix it up i think they also install newer hardware in it i mean iam not rlly know that much bout 360 even though i own one XD

trini_playr
trini_playr

i thought they fixed this??? i from trinidad and just ordered the 360 pro holiday bundle and am waiting... it is very f**kd up to hear dis is still happening it would b very expencive to send it back to fix and would take too long i had better not get rrod - all i want is gta4 _ i just cant go back to my ps2

mdaviduran
mdaviduran

Well, here in Costa Rica, they dont do nothing, i have 2 with RROD, and nobody do nothing..... T_T

davidartist1234
davidartist1234

My first 360 failed. After that I took matters into my own hands. Got another 3 rings of death on my second system. Don't depend on Microsoft to fix the problem as efficienly as an individual possibly could. You want it done right it has to be done yourself. I moded my 360 which voids the warranty. This, however, is the best way I've found to remedy the 3 rings of death. 2 hours and $20 bucks of thermol-surface resin and screws from Lowes and my 360 was brought back to life for 2 years, running for 20 hours straight. Ring of death never again.

Gum_Horror
Gum_Horror

as much as i love my 360, ps3 is my favorite console good games and i think i heard somewhere the ps3 failure rate was 1 in 5000 or 50000. 360 failure rate is 1 in 3.

MrGordons
MrGordons

My Elite Failed, and they are charging me R1000 to replace it...everywhere else its free, S.A sucks :(

taino1128
taino1128

Typical American brand electronic/car company. Selling things that they know won't work because they are too lazy to fix them ahead of release.

chitownbaby
chitownbaby

Mine lasted 2 1/2 years. Thankfully I was smart enough to buy it from Costco. Not only did I get a new one. I made $175 on the exchange. When this one dies I will take it back no problems. No waiting 2 months. I guess what I'm saying is buy it from Costco. BTW, I have and love both systems. True I play 360 more because of my built up community over the years.

Taurean5520
Taurean5520

First of all, I don't own a PS3. I have over 50 games for my 360, more than 30 for the original xbox and I've had a lot of fun with them, but the stark, unchangeable truth is, that when the next console generation rolls around, Microsoft will not have my business. I'll be on my 3rd xbox when they ship it back to me. 3 is bad enough, but my cousin is on his 4th and lopez down there is on his 13th. This is unacceptable, and good customer service or no (this last one died 2 days before my warranty expired WHEW), I will not go through this garbage again. Au revoir Microsoft, it was fun while it lasted. Oh and Atarii, you're a freaking troll moron.

unkosolz
unkosolz

So your saying almost a million people don't take care of their 360s and that's the reason for it breaking, right? Even if most of them have it failed within a month of using it? Microsoft just tried to pull a fast one to get ahead of the other 2 consoles and it's costing them quite a bit.

Atarii
Atarii

People should really learn to take care of their electronics.

beekayjay
beekayjay

Say what you will about the 360 and which is the better console, but fact remains, Microsoft rushed production for a market advantage at the cost of hardware reliability and quality. This isn't a flame or an opinion, this is fact. In light of these facts, I can't honestly see how any intelligent, rational consumer could ever fanatically march under the Microsoft banner. It's mind blowing.

YoshIsfunky
YoshIsfunky

Sjee, to see the amount of console fanboys here really makes me sad. When will this whole "my console is better then yours" be over? My god. The Xbox 360 has great games, but the first generation was unreliable. Those are the facts. It still has great games and software support so it is still a great console. By the way, the PS3 is wonderful too: very reliable, fantastic games and some amazing online content. Buy the one you like and stop posting crap about the others.

SHAdOWgeneral
SHAdOWgeneral

just got RRoD last week...sucks...at least of still got my reliable ps3 to play

hadhuken
hadhuken

is microsoft ever going to fix this damn rrod problem?!

San-Frodenzo
San-Frodenzo

I just bought an Elite 360 like 3 weeks ago... it's indeed a hassle because since I'm afraid it'll RRoD: I only play it like for 2 hours, turn it off for half an hour and so on... I put a big bad-ass fan to blow some cool air on it... It's on its side and on top of 4 spray can caps to keep it completely ventilated.. But anyway... Every time I turn it on i get this awkward feeling that those damn red lights are gonna show up eventually...

Guns_Obanion
Guns_Obanion

THANKS EVERYONE YOU HAVE SAVED ME SOME TIME, MONEY AND HASSLE. I WAS ACTUALLY CONSIDERING THE PURCHASE OF AN XBOMB TO ADD GAMES TO MY LIBRARY MY PS3 COULDN'T (YET). I WILL BE PATIENT AND WAIT INSTEAD FOR FURTHER RELEASES FOR PS3 :) PS. I HAVE HAD ONE REPLACMENT OF MY PS3 SO FAR AFTER 10 MONTHS OF OWNING IT AND IT WAS A BLU RAY FAILURE...WOULDN'T READ ANY DISKS.

Gretzky1106
Gretzky1106

I had a RROD twice (my first two) and a E-74 (my third one). They fixed my E-74 one for free and sent it back to me. I'm currently on my third one.

ps2forever
ps2forever

And why are people still talking about the Console wars? isn't it over, enjoy what we all have guys. yes i know the failure rate for the Xbox is unacceptable. but it has some pretty decent games, so it dosen't mean anything, gamers like me will still enjoy this console.

utvolvet
utvolvet

Unfortunately the RROD are not going anywhere fast - I bought a new 360 Elite this summer (mid-June) and despite reasonable usage (average 1 - 1.5 hours per day) I got the failure in mid-September. Hopefuly the new one they're sending me will be triple-checked for solder/memory/etc. issues. Just in case anyone wonders, my Elite has the HDMI port and I used a Nyko Intercooler in addition to an exposed setup (not stacked under other things) with an external fan to keep the heat problems minimized. Btw - anyone know of a good LCD-quality switch so I can flip from PC to 360 on my puter monitor? I bought one from newegg (link here: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817707101) and it sucks. I use a VDigi for my original XBOX and it works great but there is no XBOX360 version of it.

agentkratos
agentkratos

i just got the red ring the day i got live (Thursday)...i was so excited about COD4 online and it was amazing for the hour that i got to play

Drz4tobate
Drz4tobate

PS3 a rip-off!!waaaaoohh are you a gamer man!! the only rip-off around here is the Xbox..trying to get hands on all our good games, hell they even wanna to to sleep nintendo the mother of all gaming console... playstation got games,tech and evrythin a gamer needs!! just because it had a slow start does mean is gonna loose the war..the war is just starting now and is already getting to a point where microsoft is gonna have to compete head 2 head or bye bye for the xbox 360!! matter fact if timing is correct there will be another xbox coming out soon..what you think microsoft lowers prizes cuz they better??? if you look closely they do it evrytime ps3 goes down..LMAOOO The Wii!! well is a fun system,cheap and its really different from the rest soooooo i would say is not competing..is just in its own ranks...

Ult_iMate
Ult_iMate

Rishty My point is that a console with two shooters as main games is not a console at all. It's some sort of PC because it offers pc-style shooters, pc-style RPGs and pc-style RTSes. I cannot be a PS3 fanboy. I don't even have a PS3 - i bought a Wii on its european launch. I think it is the most console-ish of all next-gen. And i'm happy with its console-style games. And i see that Sony is offerring more and more of that kind of games from the launch and making its best investing in games that i loved on my PS1/PS2. And i also see that X360 fans still live in the past, when they were repeating the MS's PR BS: PS3 is expensive (tell that to lopez5045, how cheap his 13 Xboxes are), it has no games (it just has a bunch of action-adventure titles as its main games instead of two pc-style shooters from former pc-developers), it has less exclusive games (well it's 25 for PS3 and less than 10 for X360 in the near future), cell is a dead-end of CPU's evolution (it's rather "laziness is a dead-end for programmer's evolution"), nobody needs a BluRay (where is HD-DVD now? How many DVDs do you need for a FF13?), and so on. I'm just acting against the Microsoft's policy on console market and not pro PS3. It's just that you can only compare these two consoles. The "pc-style machine" and the "console-style machine". PS3 is much more close to Wii in its gaming ideology.

icettx
icettx

I honetly reckon the 360 should have been prperly tested before they started to mass produce, games aren't about who gets there first and who has the flashiest console... But it seems Microsoft think otherwise. Anyway my 360 hasn't ever had any problems within the year I've had it, in actuel fact its the ps2 i've caught dieing the most but overall they could have put more effort into testing the console and not racing for money.

Rishty
Rishty

Dang, this was a pain back when the 360's first came out, thankfully i didnt buy mine till Halo 3 came out and the limited edition Halo 3 console (Woo for me) and meh works fine for me, guess Microsoft anaylsed the problem. (Before any PS3 fanboy quotes me here, i dont care, i dont play my console 24/7 for it to overheat and blow-up, i play it regularly, it works fine, it plays fine thank you) (Message to Ult_iMate) Are you trying to make a point or are you just proving some never ending PS3 retarded fanboyism - no-one cares if you hate 360 to the bone dude, we all have our own opinions. Like i think the "Wii" pisses all over the competition =O ESPECIALLY the rip-off of a console PS3...