master-chief-is-sorryLike any other evening, I sat down on my couch in front of my TV, grabbed my game controller, pressed the guide button to power my XBox 360, and prepared to immerse myself into gaming goodness. But instead of hearing the familiar start-up jingle, I was greeted with a grinding internal whine from the system, a message on my TV screen, and a blinking red light on the front of my console. My heart stopped, if only for a moment.  

Distressed, I shut the system down and turned it on again with hopes that maybe, just maybe, it was a fluke. I reassured myself, “I’ll turn it back on, the system will have reset, and everything will be okay.” Instead, a callous message washed across the TV screen:  “System Error E74.” While not the now infamous “Red Ring of Death” (RROD) that roughly means “you’re system broke…for some reason,” it might as well have been. My system had stopped working and I was devastated.

rrod“Please contact Microsoft for assistance.” Reluctant to accept what had just happened, I called the number provided within the text. Tech support greets me, and begins to guide me through a brief triage of troubleshooting techniques to determine if in fact my system truly is damaged, and if so at what severity. A few minutes and a few tests later, the assistant informs me that repairs will be needed. I sigh and glare down acceptance.

A few days later, a box from Microsoft arrives via UPS to ship it back; a paper coffin, complete with a nice plastic suit and comfy Styrofoam shoes and hat. I meticulously prepped and packaged my 360 and, like a pallbearer, carried it to the local UPS Store for shipping. Despite my directed discretion from XBox tech support to abstain divulging the contents of the box, the gentleman behind the counter greeted me with a slightly-smug “Ah, an XBox, I see. Yeah, we ship about five to seven of these a day.” Sorry Microsoft, but they know what’s inside. 

the-cardboard-coffinI bid farewell to my system as we parted for the approximately anticipated 5 weeks before I would see it again. During that time, Microsoft would keep me up-to-date on it’s whereabouts via a tracking number. Once received, I expected periodic e-mail updates pertaining to the repair status. I was an anxious hospital patient, waiting to hear if it was a terminal disease, or just an itchy rash. 

Three weeks pass, and I receive the news: my system has been repaired, and a follow-up e-mail with the shipping number is to follow. I smiled with relief, and waited for the last e-mail. My baby would be home soon. Perhaps I should plan a small homecoming party? 

However, I never received that e-mail or the tracking number. Several days went by as my nerves were tested, until finally a wonderful surprise greeted me at my door; my XBox 360 was home. Here it was, safe and sound, and nearly a week and a half sooner that I had expected. I opened the box, removed my 360, and gave it a visual once-over to see how the trip faired. Taped to one side was a 1-month gold-membership for XBox Live to compensate for the month I had missed mowing down friends and complete strangers on Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4. 

Giddy, I immediately ran downstairs with 360 in tow, and placed my system back where it belonged on my entertainment center. I then made myself comfortable on the couch, grabbed my controller, and once again prepared for an evening of gaming goodness.

So why am I sharing such an obviously sad story of excessive nerd-love with my console?

Since it’s release on November 22 of 2005, there have been an unprecedented number of faulty systems, largely caused by the RROD. So many in fact, Microsoft has never released an official number for the rate of failures, whether to conceal the truth from consumers or because they are just plain embarrassed. However, through various press releases, it’s widely believed to be around 50%; well above the industry accepted rate of failure of 3-5%.

roulette1But I’m not here to chastise Microsoft for what they had done, but to illustrate and commend Microsoft for doing their best to make things right. While the RROD was not the cause of my system to fail, I know others gamers have been or someday may be afflicted with this or any of the other possible technical issues that seem to lurk within many XBox 360 consoles like a heart attack waiting to happen. Hopefully this story will reassure future victims of the flashing red lights. Take solace knowing that my problem was handled quickly, professionally, and I was very pleased with the end result.

So thank you, Microsoft. Any big company that admits their mistakes and does their best to rectify the problems deserves the benefit of a doubt. While I was upset at first, you have proven to me that you are a company that doesn’t ignore your faults. You accepted them and made them right by me. I am impressed. Even if contractual warranties and multiple class-action lawsuits enforce them to do so. 

Now go fix Vista.

~James LaPoint

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