Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Xbox360 Woes: The Saga Continues

So I just got my Xbox360 back after having it repaired for RROD'ing. Excited to try it out, my brother and I popped in our Call of Duty 4 disc and booted it up. What followed was a horrendous screeching sound as the disc came loose in the drive and scratched a circular groove onto its surface. The game seems to be performing well, but that's the last time we'll be playing with the console upright.

Interestingly, this just popped up on Neogaf. Sounds like my woes may be soon be Microsoft's woes:

Suit: Microsoft knew Xbox could damage discs

A document unsealed in a lawsuit last week suggests that Microsoft employees knew before putting the Xbox 360 on the market in November 2005 that the video game console could damage game discs.

Several ongoing lawsuits charge that the Xbox 360 is defectively designed because tilting or swiveling the video game console can scratch game discs playing inside.

Plaintiffs in a July 2007 case filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle are seeking class-action status on behalf of all those who purchased Xbox 360s.

Most of the declarations in the court case are sealed, but a newly unsealed motion (read it here) seeking class status quotes from the sealed declarations of Microsoft employees.

The motion says that Microsoft knew that when the Xbox 360 was reoriented with a disc playing inside, the disc could be damaged.

It quotes Hiroo Umeno, a Microsoft program manager, who said in a declaration, "This is ... information that we as a team, optical disc drive team, knew about. When we first discovered the problem in September or October (2005), when we got a first report of disc movement, we knew this is what's causing the problem."

After the Xbox 360 launch, according to the motion, Microsoft sent a team of engineers to stores across the country "to investigate complaints that the Xbox 360 was routinely scratching discs during demonstrations."

Microsoft determined that if the console was tilted, discs inside became "unchucked" and collided with the drive's optical pickup unit, leading to deep circular gouges on the discs.

Because of the complaints, Microsoft considered three possibilities to fix the problem, but rejected all of them.

One solution would have increased the magnetic field of the disc holder, but it was dismissed because it could have interfered with the disc opening and closing mechanism. Another solution -- slowing the speed at which the disc was rotated -- was rejected because it could have increased the time required for a game to load. A third solution, installing small bumpers, was too expensive. It would have cost between $35 million and $75 million.

Eventually, Microsoft did institute an Xbox 360 disc replacement program that sends out new discs to customers if their discs are damaged for any reason. The program only applies to Microsoft titles and costs $20 per disc.

A warning was also included in the product manual, telling customers to "remove discs before moving the console or tilting it between the horizontal and vertical positions."

But, according to the motion, Microsoft employees deemed in an internal e-mail that the warning was insufficient.

A warning label was also affixed to the Xbox 360's disc drive.

More than 55,000 customers have complained about broken discs as of April 30, according to a Microsoft employee quoted in the motion.

Plaintiffs in the case also include a statement from an engineering consultant who says that other electronics makers, including Sony and Nintendo, almost always incorporate the possibility that a console could be moved while a disc is rotating inside in the designs of their products. Read his declaration here.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said Friday the company would not comment on pending litigation.

The Xbox 360 has been hampered by hardware glitches. In July 2007, Microsoft took a $1 billion pretax charge to extend the Xbox 360 warranty to three years from the purchase date for cases where hardware failures are accompanied by a red flashing in the "ring of light" around the console's power button.

At VentureBeat, Dean Takahashi has detailed how Microsoft prior to the launch of the Xbox 360 knew that the console could fail but went ahead with the release anyway so that it could get its console quickly to market.

Posted by Joseph Tartakoff at December 14, 2008 5:45 p.m.


SuiginChou said...

The case will be thrown out or ought to be thrown out. Any DVD or CD drive which does not lock the disc in when spinning performs like this, including (though not limited to) the Nintendo Wii, most personal computers, and most commercial DVD and Blu-Ray players. If you pick up and rotate your Nintendo Wii while playing SSBB, guess what: you're the proud owner of a brand-new Nintendo Brick. The same exact situation holds true for the 360. (Realistically, you'd never intentionally do this, but if you tripped over a wired-controller's cable, you'd break the console. Which is exactly why Microsoft built in detachable cables with the launch of their XBox in 2001: to avoid precisely this concern!)

Devices not (as) susceptible to this design flaw (though still susceptible to some degree) are those which require you to snugly "clasp" the DVD or CD onto a button in the center of the drive. Devices that have this design include (but are not limited to) the Nintendo GameCube, portable CD players (i.e. "Discmans"), and most laptop computer CD and DVD drives.

The only way for Microsoft to be charged guilty of a crime (e.g. concealing a potentially-damaging design "flaw" in their device) would be if the United States justice system was to declare all such drives illegal -- or to at least order manufacturers to include a warning label which would inform consumers that the device, if tilted while in operation, could destroy the disc, the device, or both.

Long story short, Jay? This is Take #2 of "The Woman Who Sued McDonald's For Selling Her Hot Coffee." Microsoft may lose, but if they do, it'll be fucking retarded. I mean, I'm pissed off to even hear that this is going to court! Some people! They just can't take any responsibility for their own mistakes! They always have to blame somebody else for them! This class-action lawsuit amounts to two things:
1) consumer negligence, and
2) extortion

I say boo urns. >( In your case, you didn't know (and you haven't suggested to the readers if you even moved the unit or not, so you may not even be fighting the same fight as these maroons!), so you can't be charged with #1. By definition, negligence is making poor decisions despite having prior knowledge of the possible negative consequences. The worst you could be accused of is being ignorant, and even then, that's only if you admittedly tilted your machine while the disc was spinning. As for #2, well, you're not joining their suit, so nobody can fault you there either. So! In my book? I think you have a real leg to stand on. :) It sounds to me like they sent you back a defective 360 and you need to get it (re-)replaced. But as for these other guys, they just sound like crybabies.

If in your heart of hearts you know that you or your brother really did move the unit while the disc was spinning, then
a) I hope you don't take personal offense at the attack I've launched at this class-action lawsuit, and
b) I hope that you don't join their "cause," because their cause isn't about righting a wrong: it's about getting reimbursed for their own blunders.

But if you just had the unit upright? And if the disc loaded up and then made that awful noise? And if you took it out and saw the scratch? Then my theory is:
a) the drive has a loose gear in it,
b) this loose gear (like all gears) only matters in either the vertical or in the horizontal axis,
c) and in this case, it's the vertical axis, and so its being loose compromised the integrity of the device.

The fix is easy, and the blunder is theirs (Microsoft's), not yours. The 360 should be able to operate in the upright position as advertised.

fgy299 said...

my bros xbox 369 elite didn't play disks anymore, but now it does.