Something awful happened to me on the weekend: my Xbox Elite controller broke. Well, sort of broke. It still technically functioned, but the right stick was no longer operating as normal. It refused to centre. It was stuck in place slightly to the left, or slightly to the right, or if you wiggled it around sometimes it'd just get stuck on the extremities.
But this is a $200 controller. It's supposed to take more than a few months of hard labour. So I decided to wander into Sydney's Microsoft Store to see if I could get it repaired or exchanged. Thankfully, the process was a breeze.
The gameplan was pretty simple. I put the Elite controller with all its bits and pieces — except for the USB cable, because I forgot and left it at home — in its carry case. I didn't take the original box: I figured it'd be easier to just unzip the pouch to demonstrate what was wrong with the controller, rather than having to take the box apart in the store.
On top of that, it was raining at a decent clip too. I'd forgotten to take the umbrella from my desk, so anything that made the process as easy as possible was fine by me.
The Xbox Elite's carry case
I walked into the store just after lunch time and stood next to two massive screens showing off the Xbox One. Two blokes were playing a game of FIFA 16 on four incredibly laggy screens, while the next set of screens was patiently sitting on the Xbox dashboard.
After a minute, one of the staffers came up to me and asked me if they could help. He was holding an Xbox Elite controller at the time, which was wonderfully convenient. "Excellent," I said, "you're holding just the thing I need help with."
At that point, I took my Elite controller out of its case and then provided to explain the problem. I moved the stick around, suggested that the spring underneath the bearing had probably snapped; I wasn't brave enough to take apart the Elite when it broke to identify the true culprit.
The store assistant then followed my lead, compared it to the one he was holding, and agreed: yup, my controller was a bit buggered. "Well I can replace it for you, would that work," he asked?
Damn straight it would.
Image credit: Gizmodo Australia
I didn't have a paper receipt on hand: I'd purchased the Elite controller through the Microsoft Store online, taking advantage of the free express delivery. That seemed to be a bit much for the Microsoft Store's database, as it wasn't able to locate me as a customer even though the receipt went to the same email as my Microsoft account.
Fortunately, all I had to do was bring up the receipt on my phone. The assistant looked to make sure my name and email address was the same one and that I wasn't trying to be dodgy. Satisfied that I wasn't, he grabbed a new Elite controller box from the counter and proceeded to manually process the exchange.
It was a wonderfully relieving experience, since I'd seen some suggestions online that Microsoft were less than helpful when it came to returns or exchanges for the Elite. I was also pretty unclear about how the process would work in person as opposed to the Xbox Online Service Centre.
If you're getting your controller serviced via the latter, you're not meant to send any of the removable parts in. "They will not be returned to you," Xbox's support page warns. "Keep all the removable D-pads, paddles and thumb sticks. You'll receive a replacement controller without these parts, so you'll need to use those original parts with the replacement controller."
With that in mind, it's better to handle exchanges and replacements in store. The whole process took five minutes, and would have taken less if a store manager didn't wander over to ask the assistant to do something on his break. That ended up in a third round of playing with the broken right stick, but given how easy the process is I wouldn't have minded if the whole store wandered over for a peek.
Regardless, the experience was worth it to know how robust Microsoft's support for the Elite controller is. It's a $200 piece of tech. That's almost half the price of a brand new Xbox One, sometimes more if there's a good deal. If you're going to spend that much — or you already have, for a Christmas or birthday present — you don't want to be screwed around when it comes to getting it fixed.
And Microsoft didn't do that, for which I'm grateful. Now I just need to avoid the horrendous ignominy of stepping on the bloody thing again.