The Xbox 360 has been the source of some controversy since its release. Microsoft used their funds as a house-hold name in operating systems, to make sure they can compete in the games console market, much to the dismay of many.
With many exclusive titles, new innovations on the way, and the infamous ‘red ring of death’ (RROD), join me as I look at what has happened with their journey inside the industry and what the future holds.
Breaking into the console market is a very tough job. In the past, we have seen many fail to stand the test of time and stay as a long term competitor. Companies such as Sega used to be huge in the hardware race, however, they decided to stop making consoles as of 31st of September 2001.
On the other side, companies such as Panasonic failed to make a mark with their hardware, the M2. The original was designed by 3DO and purchased by Panasonic; it never made it to production and was cancelled in 1997. This is because Panasonic was not prepared to fight directly against Sony. The technology of the M2 lived on in 1998 with the FZ-21 and FZ-35, these were multi-media players but were not aimed at the home market, moving the technology further away from gaming.
Behind the Box
Microsoft is currently the youngest competitor. The original Xbox was first released in November 2001 and sold 25 million units in its life. Though this is quite an achievement for a first entry into the market, it suffered a great deal from lack of exposure in comparison to its rival, the Playstation 2. Sony outnumbered it five to one, selling a massive 138 million units in the nine years since release. (sales figure quoted on September 1st 2009)
The Xbox had a lifespan of around four and a half years. This is in comparison to Playstation 2, which had a life of six years before the release of the next generation. Many players who had the Xbox felt they had been burned by this shorter life cycle; the console was discontinued in North America and Europe in November 2006, just 1 year after the release of the 360.
Rage against the machine
Moving forward a generation, many people who have had problems with their 360 have said it is due to the console overheating. Usually, when players upgrade, they will place the new console where the old one used to reside. This does not work for the current generation however, as the 360 is quite sleek and will be prone to overheating in the wrong places. These consoles need a good amount of space to breathe, more so as the main fans for them are at the back of the unit.
One of Microsoft’s claims for the reason behind why a substantial number of consoles were breaking is a fault with surge protectors. However, I have found that the issues with the RROD could be down to multiple problems.
The most reliable reason behind the RROD is a fault with the soldering. There are many videos on the internet that can show you how to fix the issue, simply by mending the joints where the CPU or GPU has worked itself loose. If you are still under warranty, I thoroughly suggest you do this through Microsoft’s support service. The failure rate for the 360 has been shown as 54%, so if you have not already, you are likely to experience the customer service.
You can minimize the issues with an overheating Xbox using these simple tips.
1) Place your console in a place where it can blow heat out into the open, placing it against the wall is no good.
2) Keep the area around your Xbox clean, dust can get clogged up in the fans, you will break the warranty if you try to open the console to clean them yourselves. So it is best just to keep the area clean.
3) Try to take breaks when using the unit, nothing will cool it down better than switching it off.
It’s not all doom and gloom
There is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel. Although the hardware has experienced issues, Microsoft responded with very good customer service, which I have experienced twice. If your console gets three red lights, also known as RROD, they will repair it for free. The repair process for us as customers is very simple. You call Microsoft’s support line and listen to an automated voice, once you are through to the right section you talk to a representative.
This person will then ask you for the serial number on the console, what is wrong with it and your name. After establishing the issue they will tell you to package your Xbox without the hard drive in a plain brown box, which will be collected by a parcel company. They will proceed to repair the console and send it back to you within two weeks. Overall, the process is quite pleasant for the customer.
In addition, as good faith to the customer, the base the warranty for the “3 red lights” issue was extended to 3 years. This has helped the Xbox community in not having to pay extra cash for repairs as myself, friends and family have all had our consoles experience this at around 1 and a half years after purchase.
New kids on the block
The power and capability of hardware is always on the rise. The short life cycle of the original Xbox is not going to be repeated. One of the new innovations that Microsoft are releasing is Project Natal. This is a sensor that takes motion gaming to new heights and will defiantly increase the market power of the Xbox as well as its life. There is a great video for Project Natal (here).
Hardware super-geeks like myself are always interested in what is next, so I looked into the future of the Xbox brand. One of the suggested titles for the next in line is the Xbox 720. Personally, I am hoping Microsoft will have more taste than to just start doubling up degrees of rotation; I dread the day we see the Xbox 1440. The title that makes more sense to me, also one I am more fond of, is the Xbox Pulse. Although there is no official statement, the suggested date for this console is 2011 or 2012; this would leave players with a comfortable six or seven year life cycle for their current unit.
If anyone is interested in more information about the Xbox Pulse, you can use the links I provide below. At the moment, there is mostly fake designs, with no evidence of an actual concept from Microsoft. If you feel like laughing for a while, I thoroughly suggest you check out some of the other ludicrous fake designs.