A Tale of 11 Broken Xbox 360s, and what MS should do


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?

Even assuming a 30% failure rate you reccomend a 100% recall?


Yup, because what they need to be in damage control mode now. The public perception seems to be that the 360 is a seriously defective design that will break sooner rather than later.

I want to buy a 360, but $400 is too much for me. Buying one used is out of the question because of the unreliability of the systems. I won’t own one without a multi-year warranty, so I guess I’ll wait.

My Xbox 360 is my first and is around 18 months old now. It’s worked flawlessly all the way through. I think I’ll pass on MS recalling 100% of its consoles, thank you.


My 360 died two nights ago after 18 months of working and I was actually cocky in reading about the problems that ‘other people’ had. If anything I’d have preferred it to die much sooner so that it would still be under warranty. My next step is to buy a new one at Fry’s and if they offer an extended service plan, to pick it up because it seems like 12 months isn’t always enough.

Yeah, I am really starting to think that with a 360, it’s not a matter of if it will fail, but when.

I think that’s been the general consensus for some time now.

Me, I love the thing (though it hasn’t seen much action since LOTRO dropped), and I am on my second unit. I just think it’s essential to figure in the cost of the MS extended warranty into the purchase price. Plus, IIRC, the MS extended warranty can be extended; i.e. you can buy a subsequent 2-year period after the first 2 years expire. It’s a cost (like a Live subscription) of playing on the platform.

This is one of the main reasons I do not own a 360. I keep waiting for people to stop bitching about how their XBox’s break on a regular basis, but that day never comes.

I think by the time the 360 has durable hardware, everyone will be ready for the next gen consoles.

Shit you guys are scaring me.

I wonder if this is the “Wine Cooler” guy from GAF. One of my first posts at GAF was pointing out to some guy on his 3rd 360 that maybe keeping his 360 ontop of his subwoofer was a bad idea, to which I was then called an idiot and told that it wasn’t a subwoofer but was a Wine Cooler. Well surprise surprise, it was actually a subwoofer in the end after all.

This is comment 19 following MS Xbox Products VP Todd Holmdahl’s completely useless interview with Dean Takahashi on the Mercury News website:

Jeremy Anderson Says:

June 16th, 2007 at 11:41 pm

I bought the 360 at launch. That one died in May of ‘06 and was promptly replaced. The replacement died 10/15/06. Microsoft sent me a refurb that arrived on Halloween and was instantly killed by the Fall update’s faulty installation code (as admitted to on Gamerscoreblog.com - a site run by Microsoft employees). Two weeks later, another refurb arrived - this time dead out of the box. At this point, I bought a Core system from Circuit City because I had gone over a month with no system and wanted to play Gears Of War.

Microsoft lost the DOA unit I returned. After countless hours on the phone, they still refused to act so I contacted Larry Hyrb (aka Major Nelson) and explained my story, asking for his assistance. This resulted in an e-mail from Microsoft asking me to send in my dead system, which I explained that I had already done a month before. I did not receive a replacement until January 15, 2007 - almost three months to the day after my first refurb died. During that time, the Core system I had purchased red-ringed on me and was promptly replaced by Circuit City on 12/23/06. When I complained about 8 weeks of my Live account going to waste from them sending me broken units, they offered me a free year of Xbox Live.

The day after this statement was made, they charged my credit card for a year anyway. When I called to ask for a refund, they cancelled my Live account altogether. After two hour long calls asking where my free year went, they told me I would have to pay for a year again while the refunds were being processed. I did eventually receive two credits to my card, so eventually they did give me that free year. They then charged my credit card for Microsoft Points without actually giving them to me, requiring two more hours of phone calls, plus faxing my driver’s license and credit card to them on the letterhead of the law firm where I work. To their credit, after the 01/15/07 console arrived, I did receive a call from Microsoft HQ asking if I was satisfied, and when I explained everything that had happened, they sent me a free copy of Viva Pinata.

The system they sent me on 01/15/07 died on 05/23/07. I waited for the box, sent it in and received a refurb on 06/08/07. That refurb had a disc tray that wouldn’t open and the system would randomly reboot itself for no reason. I received yet another box from MS and just sent the refurb back to them on 06/14/07.

If you’re doing the math, the next refurb I receive from Microsoft will be system number 9 since launch (if you count the second Core system, which I kept as a backup). Seriously. NINE. I wish I was kidding about that number, but I have a closet full of Microsoft boxes and 5 white faceplates to prove it (because they tell you to remove them before you send the dead system in).

Since launch, I have made over 50 phone calls to Microsoft support, each averaging about an hour. During these calls:

  • I was lied to about getting a free year of Live and had to talk to two supervisors to get what they had promised me.
  • I was lied to multiple times about a return box being sent to my house when none was scheduled to.
  • I had to pay for my own shipping and packaging twice.
  • I was told that I had to ship it myself, and then received an empty box from Microsoft the day after my Halloween ‘06 refurb arrived.
  • I had a supervisor tell me my case was being escalated to Microsoft HQ so I would receive a NEW console instead of a refurb - only to be told weeks later by another supervisor that this was not true.
  • I had another supervisor tell me that a new-in-box console had already been shipped to my house and to call back 24 hours later for a tracking number, only to be told the following day by a supervisor named Shaun that “that supervisor lied to you, probably just to get off the phone with you.”

The point of my story is this: I love the 360. I like the games, I like the integration and ease of Xbox Live, and the 360 controller is probably the most comfortable game controller I’ve used in my 33 years. But if someone like me, who works in IT and treats their electronic equipment exceedingly well, can’t keep a 360 running, there is a serious issue with the system’s reliability. And after my 8th system since launch was dead on arrival, you would think that Microsoft would just send me a new one already… or at the very least, a refurb that they had adequately tested.

Let’s hope that system number 9 arrives soon. Personally, I’m hoping that they send me one that has the new heatpipe they’ve added to the GPU heatsink that has been reported by countless gaming news outlets (and was responded to with the same amount of stonewalling and doublespeak that Dean experienced here). If not, I’ll no doubt be on number 10 before too long… and that’s simply inexcusable.


There are enough complaints to scare me too, and I hate buying extended warranties. I probably would do so with a 360, however. And people complaining about a “vocal minority”? If I had a $400 purchase fail, I’d be upset. If I had it fail more than once, I’d be livid.

I am absolutely convinced that the people who go through 12 Xbox 360s are doing something very, very wrong. I can’t imagine that the Xbox 360 is placed somewhere, untouched, with ventilation around it. I usually imagine these stories as “Well, I had the console wrapped up plastic to keep off the dust, locked in my cabinet, made out of carpet.”

IMO, their outsourced CS is as bad as the 360s dying. It’s a joke. Xbox service used to be fantastic. Also, not to come across as a fanboy, but in some of these cases like the initial post with 11 consoles does anyone think it might have something to do with the environment or the user? I mean 11 defects in a row is insane.

I don’t wonder it. I am convinced that either this guy is intentionally or unintentionally screwing things up.

Depends on where the center of the bell curve is, I suppose.

I know I’m on my third, and it’s making awful noises when it spins the disc down.


I have never purchased an extended warrantly in my live prior to my Xbox 360 purchase, but I’m glad I did this time.

All love for the product aside, this is going to come to a head one way or another, and soon. A recall, a class-action suit, a Grand Jury, something. I sense a storm brewing. This is not a “vocal minority.” This is faulty design/manufacturing on a scale unprecedented, and will not go unredressed.

What I can’t understand is why retailers are putting up with it. They don’t want people actually USING their replacement warranties, so why aren’t they bashing on Microsoft? I know a lot of people call Microsoft up but I prefer to return through the store I purchased it from and I don’t imagine that I’m alone.

When I walked in the last time the guy just glanced up and said, “Red rings?”


Also, not to come across as a fanboy, but in some of these cases like the initial post with 11 consoles does anyone think it might have something to do with the environment or the user? I mean 11 defects in a row is insane.

I don’t get why he’s bothering. 11 defects? Fuck it, after 3 I would have returned the console and not bothered anymore. It’s not worth my time.