Rant: Crazy Expectations Of A Console That Didn't Deserve Its Third Chance To Fail

If you never saw Crazy People, a 1990 film starring Dudley Moore, I highly recommend it. Basically, an advertising agency is taken over by the insane, who decide that honesty -- the anathema of marketing -- is now the best policy. Volvos are sold as "boxy, but they're good." Another stunt offers "a free plant for fat slobs". And a poster featuring an attractive couple frolicking on the beach invites the viewer to "Come in the Bahamas".

The kicker to the whole movie is a brilliant fake ad for Sony (above), in which a smug Japanese man declares that their products have better engineering because shorter Asian engineers can see the circuitry better, while "caucasians are just too damn tall." Twenty-two years and three Xbox 360 failures later, I'm thinking maybe that movie was on to something.

This isn't an epiphany, though the straight up failure of my Xbox 360's disc drive this week certainly makes it into an I've-had-all-I-can-stand moment for me. That drive squawked like a turkey call on the first day of the season. The console's fan ran constantly, even if you were just charging up a controller while the rest of the unit was offline. If you played Skyrim without installing it to the hard drive, God, the thing sounded like a Husqvarna carving through a fallen maple, even with noise-cancelling headphones on. This is to say nothing of problems with the 360's temperamental wireless -- and even wired -- connectivity. I frequently started my 360 and watched it struggle to find the router, while my PlayStation 3, sitting inches away, connected to PSN with no trouble.

That probably pissed me off the most, because whenever your 360 can't find the wireless access point, you have to pretend to test the connection. It's not only that the process means signing out your user profile (what the hell does that matter?) it's that the whole thing puts on this air of "testing" like having a bloody wireless router right next to the unit is some experimental setup that may be outside of the tolerances of this machine designed by caucasians in Redmond who were just too damn tall to see what they were making. It drove me insane to play UFC Undisputed and be told my "NAT was set to strict." I don't know what the hell that is, and I consider myself an intelligent man. I do know it's an advanced networking issue you should never encounter on a piece of plug-and-play consumer hardware.

All of this leaves aside completely gratuitious design choices, which I have raged against before, like the stupid goddamn trap door that means you can't plug in a USB device on the fourth try, much less the second or third, or the capacitive power and eject buttons. I'm sure these features won some arsehole a prestigious design award. Here's the thing about those buttons and that door, though: Their design communicates a solid-state product. No moving parts. And yet when you need to load a disc, GA-WHOOOMPH, here comes the drive tray from 1990.

And that is the thing that crapped out on me this week, requiring a tremendous willpower to not hoist the whole unit by the tray like a horseshoe, and fling it into the laundry room.

Psychologists say you hate most that which you see, deep down, in yourself. It's true with the Xbox 360, and not just because it is sold by an American company and is the dominant console in my home country especially in online multiplayer. I'm angry because, no matter how much I stomp my feet and righteously declare how unacceptable these failures are, and how shameful this console's history is, I enable its crappiness by rushing right out to get a replacement when the thing breaks, even when a PS3 -- loading times and firmware updates notwithstanding -- is humming along without any problem on an adjacent shelf.

My only defence is that I need the Xbox 360 for my job. Forza Horizon is my review, when it releases in two weeks, and that game, of course, is not releasing on any platform other than the 360. That's my excuse. What's yours? And that's not to suggest there is no good excuse. Microsoft did a fantastic job making this machine seem to be indispensable despite unreliability that, in the early days, was calculated to be as high as one out of four units failing.

Console exclusives, or timed exclusives, have a lot to do with it, but so does Sony missing the boat on pricing throughout this generation, on online multiplayer and social features, areas in which the 360 has led unequivocally in North America.

Still, as much as there's the Yellow Light of Death, nowhere near the failure rate of the Red Ring, or the fact you can't install Linux on a PS3 -- that thing works. It doesn't groan, wheeze or require a big stupid power brick that, if grasped, would leave you screaming like that Nazi grabbing the red-hot amulet in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's made by a company that has made consumer electronics hardware for decades. Not the one that brought you Clippy.

As angry as I am that Microsoft turned out such terrible workmanship throughout all makes of this console, now approaching the end of its life cycle, I am even more furious that I have accepted it by continuing to pay for the product. I'm furious that, instead of trying to get it fixed, or calling Xbox Live customer support to get my money's worth in a nasty telephone rant, I just accept that I have to buy a new one. (Which is still true, the thing is out of its warranty.) This is the third Xbox 360 to fail on me since 2007, and anecdotally, that places me at the low of the spectrum.

The code name for the 360's successor is "Durango". The popular label is "Xbox 720". I don't care what Microsoft wants to call it, that godddamn thing better be built like a tank. No capacitive buttons. No USB trap door. No pissant WiFi. No disc drive that sounds like the fiddle solo in "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." No hot brick.

I can blame Microsoft if that new console fails the first time. I can only blame myself if it fails a second.

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Comments

    Some of those network problems are probably with your internet/interference. I had the old xbox for 2 years before it got the red ring, had it fixed and then had it for another 2 years before getting the slim. Had no problems during that time and neither with my slim. I also have consistently played a lot of xbox during that time so i guess alot of it comes down to your own set up not xbox's as a whole

      No, what that means is you were one of those that were lucky. That your 360 only failed once was a luxury very few people got to experience.

        very few people? have you got any data to back that up Kizaru? the only semi reliable figures I've read put it at an estimate between 26%- a high 50% for the original model. That sure is a lot of people who missed out on having their machine fail at all.

        The 360 slim has had a failure rate comparable to the PS3.

          so you are actually saying that a 26% failure rate is GOOD? Really? The PS3's failure rate is probably like 1%, I've almost never heard of PS3 failure

            I've had my original PS3 overheat 3 times (once on a freezing cold day) and the only option was to hold down the off button and do a complete system reinstall, deleting all my save games. My 360 hasn't broken ever, but to be fair I don't play it nearly as much.

            He's not saying that at all. He's just saying that it's not as bad as kizaru was making it out to be.

            ~5% is consumer electronic industry wide accepted failure rate. PS3 is documented to be within this tolerance while the original 360 was way outside it, which is partly why the 360 didn't turn a profit for a very long time. I recall seeing an article last year stating at that stage both MS and Sony were yet to recoup the investments and costs of this gen after 5 years.

            @me - My launch PS3 died suddenly after a few years of hard use with a loud pop and I ended up getting a slim. I think its reasonably uncommon, though. I know quite a few people with 1 or more RROD 360s and I had one 360 devkit get all graphically glitchy and need replacement at work.

          I went through 4 360's, those first gen versions were built like absolute crap. The newer slim versions are much much more robust.

    Isn't everything made in China nowadays anyway?

      Shhh, don't tell the author. It was very hard work slamming his head on the keyboard enough times to get an article like this finished!

      That's not their fault as the product itself is designed by Microsoft, and not Chinese workers.

    Ironically my release 20gb pro console has given me no trouble, even if loading a game sounds like a light aircraft on takeoff and it once got RROD A long time ago. And I use the 5ghz external wireless adapter and never lost connection

    I'm with you on the connection problems. "Testing connection" is bs as even when it confirms the connection is fine, it still won't connect.

    don't stuff about the the test connection, just unplug your router and plug it back it. will fix 99% of all wireless connection problems on any device.
    generally your Xbox wireless connection craps out because of an IP conflict with another device, restarting your router will flush the DHCP leases and issue new ones.
    problem solved ;)

    I feel like this rant was viral marketing for Husqvarna chainsaws.

    Great rant, and couldn't agree more. Have had two 360's fail on me, and I still pony up for the "privilege" of playing multilayer. Meanwhile my launch phat ps3 chugs away silently and faultlessly.

    Not gonna read the whole thing but i did watch the vid and scan the article, seems like a rant from an xbox fanboy (correct me if im wrong), now im a huge fan of sony, love there products but that ad is so damn funny

    I agree with the networking. Not being able to join parties was one of my biggest peeves.

    Coming up on 4 years of PS3 ownership without a problem, after say 5 years of PS2 ownership without a problem.

    I have to say that one of the three things that tilted my decision was the RROD issue, even though I was buying a couple of years after launch and the thing was meant to be less common. (The other two were the PSN being free and preferring the PS exclusives available then). Saying Sony missed the boat on pricing is only true with upfront price- the average XBox owner spends more through replacements and/or XBL costs.

    Sure, the 360 wasn't made in the US, but half the problem with it was that Microsoft got every component made by a different company in different countries then put it all together in another location. Poorly manufactured. I dont know a single person that hasn't had the RRoD at least once.
    Having said that, i had my 60gb ps3 replaced after 2 year after the YLoD. The replacement is still goin though.

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    Last edited 19/06/15 9:31 am

      Yeah, but at the same time with more complex and more expensive hard ware its obvious that more things can go wrong than last gen. Sure, cheep production has a part in it, but lets face it, the ps2 slim was built like a piece if crap and it never broke cos it was a 10th or so as complex/powerful as this gen.

    I dunno, most people I know with a launch Wii are still going strong, myself included :P

      Most people with a Wii that I've known only use it every once in a blue moon. It's such a novelty device.

    Guess I must be one of the lucky ones. My launch model 60GB console is still going strong today. I had to replace the blu-ray drive in it about 3 years ago, but otherwise never had an issue.

    "be told my “NAT was set to strict.” I don’t know what the hell that is, and I consider myself an intelligent man"

    1) you have a crap modem/router, upgrade it and you wont have problems anymore.
    or
    2) Setup port forwarding/DMZ on your modem/router.

    If you can't do either of those, then you are very far from an intelligent man.

    My Xbox 360 was manufactured in march 2006. No HDMI port but still going strong.

    Xbox consoles have been more than reliable since the Jaspers and Falcons, so stop crying.

    If anything, more PS3s are dying these days than 360s. It was obviously the polar opposite in the early days.

    The only points I agree on though, are the disc drive, which should have disappeared with the Slim, the power brick and the stupid door over the USB slots.

    MS needs to re-hire whomever designed the original Xbox. Indestructible with no power prick. Get them on the job (unless it was the same team in which case wtf?)

    So far I am one for one between the Xbox and the PS3. My Xbox died of the RROD and my PS3 crapped itself apparently because there was liquid in it that had dried up, a theory I never bought into, and ended up buying the slim, same with the Xbox. The slim Xbox 360 is definetly better than the old one, and I haven't had any internet connection issues either.

    I do agree though its a pain when a current gen console breaks down on you but if you are a gamer who doesn't have a gaming PC getting a new one almost becomes a necessity. I'm patiently waiting for Forza Horizon as well because I like the Forza series and the Xbox is the only console I can get it on.

    I gave up and got a ps3. It has never missed a beat. I would still replace my broken 360 if they remove the subscription for online gaming. Ps3 is free to use online making it much cheaper to own. Sony gave me a code for 10 free games at the eb show. Microsoft gave away nothing. Ill stick with the company that looks after its customers for now.

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