Justin Lowe is your average hardcore gamer. He’s fully embraced the HD era, owning both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and loves his Nintendo DS and PSP for gaming on-the-go. He even helps run Aggravated Gamers, an indie gaming podcast. What’s special about Justin, though, is he’s currently on his twelfth Xbox 360. “I’m no fanboy,” he says, but there’s no doubt he’s a 360 fan. He purchased his first machine a month after the console launch, but, since then, Justin has not had a working system for longer than a month or two. The list of problems is almost comically large: three red lights of death, two with disc read errors, two dead on arrival, several with random audio and video-related issues and one that actually exploded.
Looking at the situation through Moore’s own standards, how has Microsoft performed? “On a scale of one to ten, I’d rate them an 8… at first,” says Lowe. His 360 broke in early January, just a few weeks after purchase. For the first six months, Microsoft customer service was polite and replacements sent very quickly. Since then, things have slowly but surely taken a turn for the worse. As the reported number of problems with 360 consoles increases (Microsoft writes them off as “vocal minority”), shipping has started taking longer and customer service less helpful.
As Justin garnered more experience with 360 repairs, he discovered something. The consoles consumers sent back by Microsoft are often refurbished, rather than brand-new. Justin found out that, with enough problems and by specifically making the request, Microsoft would send out brand-new consoles as replacements. Midway through his ordeal, he began doing this, but quickly found the downside: new consoles can take even longer to send out, with up to two weeks spent waiting for Microsoft approval. Microsoft has compensated Justin to some degree. A month of Xbox Live service, replacement headsets, some free Microsoft Points and at least one free game were offered at various points. He claims to have never asked for anything beyond the Xbox Live time.
When his third 360 broke, one customer service rep suggested he look into the wiring at his house; electricity problems could have been causing the mess-ups. Problem: none of his other systems (not to mention his several computers and other electronics) have experienced any major problems, and his father is, coincidentally, an electrician. The specific suggestion was brought up by Microsoft customer service again after the eighth console repair. This time, just to be certain, Justin had a contractor come to the house and check the wiring, where he was told that everything was in order, with no abnormalities in voltage of any of house outlets. Nevertheless, customer service has continued to suggest this as a potential cause.
If Justin’s story seems too crazy to be believed here on 1UP, it’s unsurprising to learn that’s how message boards responded, too. He posted his plight at both Cheap Ass Gamer and NeoGAF and was promptly called a liar by many, before he decided to record a call with Microsoft’s customer support.
In an MP3 that Justin shared with 1UP – which you can listen to below – he asks a service representative to read off his support/repair request numbers. After opening the account, the rep lets out an audible laugh. He reads them off and confirms they are under Justin’s account. Just to be sure, 1UP called into Xbox Live support with Justin’s contact info and asked for the same information. Again, the person on the other end laughed when they accessed Justin’s account, remarking, “It looks like you have a lot of numbers.”
And how does Microsoft address this issue publicly?
But, bad luck aside, is this reflective of a larger problem with the Xbox 360 console itself? In an interview at The Mercury News, Todd Holmdahl, corporate vice president of the Gaming and Xbox Products Group, attributed the complaints over hardware to be a “vocal minority” and nothing more. “I would go back and say the vast majority of people love their experience. We continue to go back and address all of these issues on a case by case basis,” he said.
When asked if Microsoft still agreed with Holmdahl’s comment that complaints were just a “vocal minority,” they did. “Yes, Microsoft stands by Todd’s statement,” said the company.
When specifically asked about the additional heat sinks appearing in refurbished Xbox 360s and how customer service determines if a consumer receives a brand-new machine or a refurbished one:[INDENT]1UP: Microsoft won’t comment on these second heat sinks showing up in refurbished Xbox 360s – which, as far as we know so far, are not in the retail units – so how does customer service determine whether someone should receive a “new” machine and an internally “refurbished” one?Microsoft: In either an in-warranty or out-of-warranty situation, most customers will now receive their original console back from Microsoft so there is no need for customers to reload profiles, games or other content previously stored on their hard drive. This is part of our ongoing-effort to improve our repair warranty program and enhance our customer service operations.
[/INDENT]Similar dodging occurred a few weeks ago, when asked about the heat sinks. Despite the visual evidence, Microsoft refused to confirm their existence.[INDENT]1UP: Reports are surfacing of users getting refurbished Xbox 360s with additional heat sinks installed in them…can Microsoft confirm?
Microsoft: In response to your inquiry, regularly updating console components is commonplace within the industry and is a standard aspect of the business for a variety of reasons including cost reduction, improved manufacturability and improved performance. We do not provide details on these updates.
1UP: But, will they appear in on-shelf Xbox 360s?
Microsoft: Again, regularly updating console components is commonplace within the industry and is a standard aspect of the business for a variety of reasons including cost reduction, improved manufacturability and improved performance. We do not provide details on these updates.[/INDENT]
Also: http://www.360-gamer.com/news.asp?id=1143[INDENT]With Rock Band coming out, I’m a prospective customer for a 360 or PS3. I’m looking to get the cheaper, yet reliable solution. I think Microsoft needs to do something different than it has in the past: admit their problem, recall every 360, retrofit heatsinks and whatever else they need to do to fix the problem and go from there. I won’t be holding my breath, of course. What do you guys think?