“So that’s your homework,” said Ben Hoyt of 47Games, then chuckled. This was Friday.
Ben’s been a good friend for years now. I met him back in 2006, when he was working for EA. I’ve never known anyone who can deconstruct a game as skillfully as Ben; he’s made for this industry. He’s a ludic genius. We don’t hang out enough – he lives in California and I live in Michigan and we only see each other at conferences. My homework was to get a copy of Halo 4 and play it, because we’re planning to record a podcast on the Mass Effect series and he wants to add a discussion of Halo to it, since they’re both epic sci-fi shooters and we’re going to contrast them.
I haven’t even completed the first part of my assignment (get a copy of Halo 4) – I was going to do so today. But last night I thought I’d fire up the old 360 and watch some Netflix, only to see a painfully familiar series of blinking lights on its display.
This is my seventh Xbox 360. Seventh. The first started returning “Disc Not Readable” errors during my play of Dead Rising. The next five died the usual way – red-ringing out of the blue. This one here I’ve had for a couple of years, and I’d recently – like, in the past three days – told a colleague that I was pretty sure Microsoft had finally ironed out the problems with the machine. Shows what I know.
Since I’ve been playing mostly PC games recently I can’t recall the last time I turned on my 360, but I’d guess it’s been within the past ten days. Worked fine. I haven’t moved it since then, there have been no electromagnetic storms, the cat stays away from it. Yet there they were, those three glaring ruby eyes, blinking fiercely at me.
I really did. I don’t know why. It was almost manic. I guess it’s because I’m in a position where I could buy a new 360 if I wanted to. My friend Pete has a spare I bought years ago, so I could just collect that one, though we like to get together at his house, connect the two systems, and play games together. Maybe it was the pure ridiculousness of the situation. But I laughed.
Meanwhile, my friend Phil has been through three 360s – or, rather, he’s about to get a third, since his second red-ringed on him a couple of months ago. Phil has steadfastly refused to buy a new one because it’s against his principles to replace a system that broke for no reason. Being a technical fellow, he even took apart his broken machine and followed instructions from the internet to fix it himself, but no luck. But with Black Friday coming up and his kids wanting games for Christmas, Phil’s decided to invest in one of the deals. He’s going to do okay – about $250 for a 250GB 360, a controller, a copy of Skyrim and Forza, and the reasonable conviction that the device won’t blare its furious crimson lights at him for at least six months.
You know what’s funny? I wrote an exasperated article about 360 failures for The Escapist five years ago. And in it I made clear my contempt for Microsoft’s shoddy hardware; for its shoddy customer service; for its shoddy treatment of people in general. Let’s not forget that Xbox 360s – along with many of your favorite consumer devices – are manufactured at Foxconn, a slave camp responsible for everything from torture to withholding needed (and promised) medical support to – if you don’t want to put too fine a point on it – murder, given that workers have turned to suicide to escape its hellish facilities. That western consumers have not revolted en masse against Microsoft and Apple alike for refusing to change manufacturers is a black mark against us and our supposed love of freedom and humanity.
I am not angry for myself, 37 years old and in a financial position where I could go out and replace my 360 today. Sure, it’d be a waste, but I’ve spent more money on stupider things in the past.
I am not angry for the legions of 360 owners who’ve seen those damned red lights.
I am angry for the Child Steerpike, the little boy who had a Nintendo (a device that steadfastly refused to break even though I blew on cartridges and pounded it when I lost a game and still sits in my parent’s basement and would loyally work fine if I hooked it up today after two decades among the dust and darkness and neglect and spiders). I am angry for the kids who can’t go out and get themselves a new 360 on Black Friday or any other day. I am angry for the children and grown-ups who are screwed when the lights go red.
When I was little my parents were pretty darned understanding about my obsession with video games. They may not have understood it, per se, but they loved me and tried to understand me, and they knew it mattered to me so it mattered to them. Even so they wouldn’t have understood how lost I’d have been had my Nintendo broken, how helpless and rudderless it would have rendered me because I would have been powerless to fix the problem. Now, powerful, I can fix the problem with three clicks of a mouse, so I feel not for me but for those who can’t. Maybe I laughed last night because when I was a kid I would have cried.
My vacuum cleaner also broke – not last night, about a month ago. I have never treated it very well. It was responsible for cleaning up cat vomit despite a clear warning in the instructions not to use it on fluids. When it died I banged it against the floor a few times, and when it refused to start again after that clear message I went to Woot and bought myself one of those Dyson ones, whose pretentious commercials advertise “no loss of suction,” whatever that means, instead of taking my old Eureka vacuum to one of the repair shops we inexplicably have around here. First thing I used it to slurp up? Cat vomit. So far so good. It has no lights, so nothing can blink redly at me, at least.
I wish I could take a stand and say I won’t be buying a new 360, but I probably will despite the fact that the device is at the end of its life, despite the fact that it’ll be my eighth, despite Foxconn and Microsoft’s contempt for building things that work. I’m in the middle of Darksiders 2, you see. And I don’t like the PS3’s Netflix interface… though I must add that I’m still only on my first PS3 and when the 360 died last night I turned it on and put in my Watchmen DVD (my actual DVD player hasn’t been hooked up for years, it just sits on its shelf because otherwise there’d be an empty space there, creating asymmetry).
I am tired of you, 360. I am tired of buying new things because old ones break. I doubtless sound like a curmudgeon, but when I was a kid stuff didn’t break unless you broke it. My 360 hadn’t been touched, yet when I hit the button on my remote, there were those scarlet eyes, pitilessly glaring at me.
My seventh 360 doesn’t say something about itself, or about the complexity of modern devices, or about Microsoft or about Foxconn. It says something about us… because sooner rather than later I’ll probably have an eighth, and I have no one to blame for that but myself.
I’m sorry, Ben, we may have to just talk about Mass Effect. Unless my headset breaks.
Send an email to the author of this post at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wow, that sucks. 🙁
We’re lucky enough to only be on our second 360. Fingers crossed it lasts a while… we have so many games!
The NES? Still works.
I feel your pain, I am on my 3rd XBOX… my PS3 had been great up until this year (had the lovely MGS 4 edition with full backwards compatibility) and it YLOD, and Sony replaced it… with a non-backwards model… and they kept YLOD every 13 days… 3x in a row. Made them replace it with a slim model and now it has been good for several months (knock on wood).
Craftsmanship of these things suck now-a-days and it’s a shame, especially when you put in so much of your hard earned money for it to break on it’s own and then have the company make you pay to have it fixed/replaced.
I was just at my friend’s place Saturday night where he fired up his NES to try a game he’d just been lent (Vice: Project Doom, notably a very challenging side-scroller). After that there was a bit of a scare with the ubiquitous NES blue screen, but it always just took some patience to resolve that, and this time was no different. We had a round of 25th Anniversary Edition Jeopardy! (I won with $1) and then he neatly tucked Dr. Mario back in its place, which his mom apparently plays all the time (without volume – she’s pro).
Every NES I know of is a motherfucking badass that has weathered the years.
I’m on my third 360 (two prior ones all succumbing to the red rings). This has been the only console that has ever broken on me and I’ve owned practically all of them from the NES on. My Atari 2600 still works too.
Hope they figure it out for the 720.
Man! I’ve of course heard of the Red Ring of Death but had no idea it was so common. I’m still on my first 360 — in fact the first console I have ever owned — bought back in April 2008 specifically to play GTA4 (and in retrospect … wow, what a letdown). I guess I really haven’t put all that much time into it — I’ve only completed Halo: Reach, Halo4, although put a lot of time into GTA4, Forza2, Forza3, LA Noire and now Forza Horizon — especially compared to PC games, which still take up 99% of my total gaming.
I guess I’m wondering why you’re so resigned to seeing yourself buy another one eventually; the way I look at the Xbox, I would only ever buy an Xbox game if there is no PC equivalent. Darksiders 2 is on PC, so why bother with the Xbox? For Halo4? If so, I’d recommend skipping it. 🙂 Grand environments and lofty aspirations, but at its core, it’s just the same old “Cortana needs you to destroy 3 shields, so go into this room, kill a bunch of guys until she can open the locked door ahead of you, proceed into next room and repeat.” I just finished it last night and I have to marvel at the overall aura of the game; I cannot deny that I feel like I came into contact with something extraordinary, but I’m having an awfully tough time identifying what about its gameplay could actually quality as such. Especially compared to the freedom and variety of gameplay that can be seen in the other games I’ve been playing lately — Skyrim, Dark Souls, Dishonored.
Anyway, I’ve wandered way off-topic here but seriously, I’m stumped as to why you have specifically listed all the ways that buying another 360 sucks, and yet then conclude that you’ll probably do it anyway. Stay strong, man! 🙂
Oh one of my favorite pastimes – Xbox bashing! I’m on my third 360, and this one takes several minutes to, I don’t know, warm up, before it will even read a disk.
I was under warranty – the extended one – for all previous replacements but no more of course. Am I being cynical to suspect that Microsoft’s strategy was just to pass those broken 360s through the revolving door, and eventually the extended warranties would run out, and people would have to start ponying up again?
Is the re-design just as unreliable?
If this one breaks, I don’t know what I’ll do. I swore I wouldn’t spend another dime on that crap hardware, but I have some unfinished exclusives in the queue.
To be honest, GregP? Netflix. That’s what I used my 360 for about 95% of the time. I much prefer the PS3 for games (and play on PC most of the time), but I use my 360 for HBO Go and Netflix since it works so nicely with my Logitech Harmony remote.
With that in mind, and given that the PS3 does do those things (but doesn’t work with the remote), maybe I’ll rethink my buying a new one.
PS3 Netflix doesn’t require a $60/yr surcharge. Just sayin’.
Damn you, Botch, with your… wisdoms, and your… logicks.
Even though it sounds like the “PS3 4 Netflix” battle is won already, I will put in my two cents and say that the Netflix user interface really isn’t that bad. I haven’t used the 360 one, but it’s leagues better than the Wii’s, though in the end I’d still rather use the PC interface.
Anyway – and I don’t want anyone to take this as Xbox bashing, because I try to avoid that – I really don’t understand why more people haven’t revolted against the damn things. Seven 360s sounds pretty high, but all of my friends who own 360s are on at least their second, and some beyond. I’m maybe a bit too cynical about consumerism to be that astonished that the Foxconn issue doesn’t drive people away, because that’s kind of out of sight, out of mind, but RROD is a direct inconvenience to them! (You! Us!)
I did have to reflow, and eventually abandon, my 60GB PS3 last year, but I got it within six months of release and played the hell out of it. I’m sad about losing the backwards compatibility (it was out of warranty because I opened it to reflow it so I could save my saves – mission accomplished) with my new one, though I definitely needed the bigger hard drive. I also had to replace my PS2 back in the day – though again, that was a near-release model that lasted through three or four years of heavy play. I wish they’d be more resilient, but in the end, I’m pretty satisfied with the reliability on the things. They’ve proven more reliable than, say, every computer I’ve ever had. (Except maybe that PowerMac I learned TIE Fighter on.)
Nintendo knows what it’s doing with hardware, and always has. I’d almost say you should brush off the old NES, Steerpike, but the spiders totally make it not worth it.
Oh, and to make this discussion easy on you:
As a game: Halo series > Mass Effect series. Mass Effect has no idea what it is when you aren’t talking to people or watching a cutscene.
As a narrative experience: Mass Effect > Halo, though I like the latter’s universe better and Mass Effect (the original, in particular) makes me mad.
I love “Mass Effect” game play. I can’t really compare it to “Halo” though. I’ve only ever played “Halo” twice. Both times it was some multi-player action with friends. I was sort of confused most of the time and it really didn’t do anything for me.
I was looking forward trying out “Halo 4” with you. We needed to do a test run. The series, as a whole, seems to have some decent co-op options.
If you want your old Xbox 360 – suped up with hard drive and wireless dongle I bought – it’s yours! (Well, mainly because it actually is yours). It’s not like we ever do the two-Xbox/two-TV extravaganza without you. Then again, I do worry that you’d forget to bring it…
Are you 100% sure it’s the RROD? I know you have vast experience with such things, but a few times I’ve thought my/your/our Xbox was giving me the ole RROD, when it really was just a matter of some plug not being plugged in quite firmly enough.
Yeah, pretty sure Ajax. I unhooked the beast and then re-hooked it; red lights. I unhooked again and shook it violently; red lights. I banged on its top; red lights. This one is so far out of warranty that I don’t mind being violent with it (not that Microsoft’s shit hardware would matter, in warranty or not). It’s dead, Jim.
My Atari hardware still works 30 years on, but then machines from those days didn’t embed hard disks. Hard disks are far more prone to failure than everything else put together.
But your seventh 360? Egad. That’s crazy.
I’m with the crowd here, Steerpike. I don’t see what the 360 still has to offer in its remaining life cycle, particularly if we’re considering genuine exclusives.
Recently, there’s obviously Halo 4. If I think to stuff I’ve played over the past two years … okay, you’d miss out on Gears of War 3, Halo Reach, Bastion (but it’s on PC), Alan Wake (also now on PC), and the Left 4 Dead games (again, on PC and better).
I don’t know of any upcoming exclusives either. I still like mine and use it for multi-platform games I’ve bought on 360 for whatever reason, but if this one pulled an RROD I don’t think I’d replace it. (Okay, I have a backup at my parents’ house, so I’d use that, but if THAT one broke I don’t think I’d replace it.)
Seven? Maybe the gaming gods are trying to tell you something.
I went through three 360’s. That was enough for me. Along with the realisation that I felt like a chump paying for Xbox Live.
I like the 360. It’s a decent system that does lots of things really well, often in spite of Microsoft rather than because of them. As soon as I can bag a brand new 360 for £99 I probably will do just for the back catalogue. But that RRoD issue is such a pain in the arse, and despite attempts to rectify it with improved chip sets and whatever, it never truly went away. I’ve always been quite lucky in terms of avoiding system failures but the Xbox 360 is a cruel, harsh mistress.
Matt, I want to hear more about your cat in future articles.
Wow, I’m amazed at the number of 360s some of you people have bought. I’ve never owned a 360 (or an Xbox for that matter) because of my PC, but if my PS3 flat-lined on me more than once I’d tell Sony where to shove their consoles. A single death I could forgive, but two, three, four, five, six or seven?! No. Fucking. Way. The fact that 360s are apparently produced by Foxconn as well (a company I wasn’t aware of before now) makes the prospect of replacement even worse. People, no more! Vote with your money! I echo GregP, stay strong! Based solely on what I’ve read here I wouldn’t give a dime to Microsoft’s Xbox division. I’m genuinely shocked.
I think a big part of why people have persisted with the 360 is because Microsoft made it easy to replace them. The fallout from the RRoD farce backed them into a corner with having to offer extended warranty periods etc.
Something else to consider that wasn’t so applicable to older hardware was that modern console infrastructure almost ties users to these systems. Between XBLA purchases, friends lists and achievements, lots of people have invested significant time, money and socialising into systems like the 360. The 360 has been on the market for 7 years (as of this week, as it happens), which is a long time to be so deeply entrenched into a hardware and software ecosystem.
Leaving the 360 behind was a really easy decision for me, because none of those things were an issue for me personally, but for large parts of Microsoft’s consumer base all that shit is REALLY important.
Mat definitely has a point here. When my PS3 YLODed, I wasn’t like, “Crap! My PlayStation!”, I was like, “Crap! My SAVES!” And I would feel somewhat cheated if I couldn’t keep my trophies if I were to, say, switch to an Xbox at some point. I earned those completely immaterial pats on the back, dammit, and I expect some recompense!
I am absolutely astonished to report that, after returning from being away for Thanksgiving, my Xbox froze for the first time ever yesterday, quickly followed by 3 more freezes, followed by the RROD. WTF are the chances that barely a week after I report that my 360 had been going strong without a problem for 3 1/2 years, I get RRODed? Perhaps the universe thought I was being a bit too glib in expressing amazement at what poor luck you all have had with it?
So, I spent a while reading up on RROD fixes yesterday, and I’m elbow-deep into pulling my 360 apart and cleaning and reseating the GPU. My progress was halted by lack of a T8 Torx screwdriver yesterday, so planning to pick one up today.
That’s the last time I offer anything other than pure compassion for anyone with a hardware failure!
This is no longer a standalone incident; it’s a full-fledged pandemic here. Quarantine Steerpike’s 360! (Quarantine Steerpike just in case.)
The universe is definitely involved here. My 360 Red Ringed because I told a colleague that his new one would probably work fine. GregP’s died because he told us that his had been running for 3.5 years without a problem. Hopefully this jinxing is contained to Xboxen, because if people’s PS3s start failing, that’s some scary fate shit going on there.
At this point I’m more or less committed to not replacing the thing. As people have pointed out here, the console is close to end of life, I prefer my PS3 for games, and I mostly only used it for Netflix… which is available on PS3 without the added Gold membership surcharge.
Now I just need to find out how long my Gold membership still has before renewal, since there’s little point in cancelling it ahead of that in case I decide to buckle and buy an eighth 360. Or maybe Microsoft will read this thread and send me a free one. Holding breath now.
Oh, Mat, speaking of which… https://tap-repeatedly.com/forum/mud-wrestling/bkaw-bkaw/
Believe me, my cat is practically a fucking fixture here, but I’ll see what I can do. 🙂
This was my favourite mention of Steerpike’s cat: https://tap-repeatedly.com/2011/07/if-stabbing-a-puppy-would-make-it-cooler-i-would-stab-a-puppy-bring-me-a-puppy/
I’m curious how many of you with RROD’ed 360s have tried to fix them. As I’d never looked into it before, I was amazed at how many YouTube videos and other sites offer suggestions and tutorials about possible solutions to try. The first thing I tried to deal with my 0110 error code was a disassembly followed by application of new thermal compound to the GPU and CPU — that did nothing. Next up for me is the ‘reflow the solder’ trick using a heat gun — which I had to first order on Amazon and should arrive today. Incredible how so many of the heat gun reviews on Amazon are from people who’ve had to reflow their 360 or PS3 motherboards.
So, when I get some time in the next few days, I’ll be giving this reflow thing a try, but if that doesn’t work, looks like I too may have to resort to buying a new one. Like Steerpike, my Hulu and Netflix access via the 360 is just too good to give up, even though I don’t really play many games on it anymore. It’s tempting to go with a PS3 instead — especially considering the Blu-ray player and no need to pay for Xbox Live Gold each year — but since I missed the Black Friday deals, cheapest I can find is $300 compared to $199 for the 360, and I just can’t stomach the idea of paying 300 bucks. I’d also have to give up on LA Noire and Forza Horizon, as well as a karoake game my wife plays, which would be unfortunate.
Hopefully the reflow works and I don’t have to spend more than the twenty bucks that the heat gun cost….
GregP, I’ve never tried and don’t really have an interest. My soldering skills are non-existent. And with my console at least limping along, I’d be afraid of making things worse.
My buddy Phil, mentioned in the article, did try – he’s an IT director so he knows his stuff. I’m not sure what technique he used, but he took a series of photos for reference as he disassembled the machine, and be warned GregP, if you have one of the older models, apparently getting it apart is no simple task. I saw pix of like four dozen proprietary screws and clips and stuff. Be sure to keep organized and maybe take photos so you’re sure you can get the thing back together again.
Alas, Phil’s efforts didn’t work; he got it reassembled and it still red-eyed him.
@GregP – I don’t know about 360s, but I reflowed my first model PS3 when it went bad and, after several warranty-voiding disassemblies, some time with a heat gun, a lot of crossed fingers, and such, the most it got me was a little time to do a hard drive transfer to a new PS3. Which is still a lot better than starting afresh.
I’ve heard of people with both systems that have fixed these problems and went on for ages without having them again, but in my experience it’s really hit or miss and not terribly related to your electronics prowess (though I imagine that helps with some parts of it).
But best of luck with yours! Hopefully you’re one of the lucky ones.
Well — I almost can’t believe it, but, the heat gun reflow trick worked — RROD gone! I just played about a half hour of Forza Horizon with no problems. As you mentioned, Steerpike, getting the enclosure off is a real PITA, so I think I’m going to leave it off for a few days just to make sure the fix ‘sticks’. But for now, my 360 works!
First off, huge congrats to GregP for successful DIY reflow project! I’m always happy to see people reap the benefits for getting thier hands dirty on fix-it projects. I hope your fix keeps it going for a good long time.
In general, I think we better get used to a lot more hardware failures in the future given the heat problem. Each iteration of hardware just is exponentially more likely to produce lots of heat. Given that the profile of the average console is about the size of a slim PC, dealing with heat abatement is kind of tricky. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo need to come up with some wizardry to get their machines to have a healthy life cycle. Microsoft gets an F for the 360. Sony gets around a B- in my opinion. Grade is out for Nintendo since the Wii U just came out and is their first high tech console comparable to 360 and PS3.
Well done GregP. Glad to hear it! Hopefully, a few bucks and a bit of an effort taking the beast apart saved you several hundred in replacement. Good luck!