After 5 long years and countless hours of awesome (and some not so awesome) gaming, my trusty Xbox 360 slipped away to a better place last week. The dreaded “Red Ring of Death” left its mark on my otherwise happy home. For the uninitiated, the Xbox 360 has a ring of lights surrounding its power button that are generally green. Green is good. When those lights turn red then you have issues. It means that, for one reason or another, your console is dead or dying and needs repair.
The warning signs came a couple of weeks ago, when playing Borderlands the screen froze a few times. That was followed by one red segment of the ring being displayed. Panicked and confused I blurted my worries to the world in general over Twitter. Surprisingly, the good people at Xbox Support, who obviously trawl the social networking site looking for poor unfortunates like myself, got in touch with a solution to my problem. They sent me a message linking a help forum at their website dealing directly with “Red Ring of Death” and the solution described therein worked. I was pleased.
Sadly, one week later the inevitable happened; the screen froze again and this time it was accompanied by a full “Red Ring of Death”. Nothing in Xbox Support’s solution arsenal was effective and I had to accept the fact that my old friend was gone.
Ordinarily you can send your console off to Microsoft for repair, but only if you’re still within your warranty period, and as mine was a launch model my warranty had expired years ago. I was forced to submit to the inevitable, to lay my old friend to rest and to visit my local store for a replacement.
As timing would have it, a sexy new model, the Xbox 360 slim, was launched recently and has improved in many ways upon the original 360. With a smart shiny black veneer, the slim is more compact than its predecessor and has built in WiFi. The model I bought came with a 250GB hard drive, a vast improvement on the 20GB of my old launch model, and the cooling fan is nearly silent, quite unlike the sound made by my old console, which was reminiscent of Seaking helicopter launching. What’s more, the system makes a satisfying “Ping” noise when you press the eject button (simple things please simple minds).
However, I have cause for concern. When I bought the slim the helpful staff member at my local Game store told me that some people have been experiencing problems with the new console. She claimed that fans break, the laser disk reader burns the faces of the disks on occasion and many have suffered the same catastrophic shut-down that killed my old model. What worried me most was when she said “You don’t need to worry about Red Ring of Death, you don’t get them with this console. Oh, that’s not because they don’t break, Microsoft have just removed the red light bulbs!” A grim thought indeed.
That said, forewarned is forearmed and I’ll be on the lookout for any of these supposed problems. As it stands the new slim is occupying old-faithful’s plinth and is serving very well. Something about the whole experience has been niggling at the back of my mind though, and I have finally put my finger on it. Many who I have spoken to about the demise of my first 360 have expressed surprise that it lasted as long as it did. One of my friends told me he was on his 4th model, having suffered “Red Ring of Death” 3 times.
I’m now wondering why we, as consumers, accept this. Surely something as expensive as an Xbox 360 should be expected to last more than a couple of years, and the general acceptance of regular breakdowns is infuriating. These things should work. Unless you drop them, spill something on them or leave them on too long and overheat them, why don’t they just keep working? It’s not for this post, as I intend to research this more and write about it more thoroughly and thoughtfully, but can you imagine if you bought a car and then after 2 years it catastrophically broke down only to hear from the world in general that that was expected, and have you checked your warranty? I wonder how many people would buy an expensive TV or other household appliance if the life expectancy were so low.
However, I have my entertainment for now, my gaming may continue. But I’ve got my eye on you, Xbox, and I will be far from pleased if this happens again.