Just recently the dreaded high failure rate issue with the Xbox 360 (otherwise known as the Red Ring of Death) received in-depth coverage from a well-known journalist. We are talking about some serious coverage here with insider interviews with the original engineers that worked on the Xbox 360 all the way up to the high ranks of Microsoft.
Geoff Keighley of Gametrailers and host of GT TV, said in an interview with Jace Hall that there is a definite lack of investigative journalism in the gaming industry, especially in regards to the high failure rate of the Xbox 360. Keighley also said that the Red Ring of Death with the Xbox 360 was never properly reported.
N’Gai Croal of Newsweek in the same interview added if the exact same issue happened to the iPod and there was a 30% failure rate then everyone would already know in detail why that happened. Jace Hall retorts we (the game industry) are just good at covering things up, which isn’t too far from the truth.
However all is not lost, as 17 years veteran journalist Dean Takahashi, who has written for the Wall Street Journal, Red Herring Magazine and Los Angeles Times, and now writes for VentureBeat, has made a tremendous effort to probe and delve into exactly what happened with the Xbox 360 and the cause of the high failure rate. Takahashi conducted over a hundred interviews starting from the engineers who worked on the hardware of the Xbox 360 all the way up to executives at Microsoft.
Takahashi gives an overview on how Microsoft Execs knowingly gave the go ahead for production of the Xbox 360 despite being aware of the high failure rate. It was all due to a race to beat Sony to the market for control of the living room.
The strategic chess moves as Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and company take risk after risk, trying to outmaneuver their archrivals for the brass ring: dominance of the incredibly lucrative video game market and control of the digital entertainment gateway in the living room.
GameDaily’s overview of Takahashi’s report reveals out of every 100 Xbox 360, 68 would fail in the initial phase before production.
Microsoft knew it had flawed machines, but it did not delay its launch because it believed the quality problems would subside over time. With each new machine, the company figured it would ride the ‘learning curve,’ or continuously improve its production. Even though Microsoft’s leaders knew their quality wasn’t top notch, they did not ensure that resources were in place to handle returns and quickly debug bad consoles. There were plenty of warning signs, but the company chose to ignore them.
It also seems Microsoft in order to save $2 million of a $25 million contract with the third party vendor decided to forgo the quality assurance machines that are suppose to detect the sort of issues the Xbox 360 had.
Microsoft’s attitude of “release now and patch later” with the Xbox 360 has ended up costing billions of dollars, as well as leaving many gamers angry. It is also speculated that the reason Microsoft’s decline in worldwide sales is directly attributed to the Red Ring of Death issue.
If a CE company did not have resources of a billion dollar company like Microsoft it is practically guaranteed that company would be out of business by now. This raises an interesting question, is it fair for a company such as Microsoft to remain in the video game industry when its actions and issues it faces would normally cause other CE companies to fold has occurred?
The real victims here are the consumers of course and there really has yet to be a true apology issued by Microsoft. Yes the three year warranty extension is nice and a bit forced despite being a given, but I really don’t see any remorse from their decision and we are of course going to let them get away with it.
If you are an avid fan of the gaming industry then do yourself a favor and read Dean Takahashi’s book “The Xbox 360 Uncloaked,” which delves in-depth to expose exactly what happened inside Microsoft and why those decisions were made.