Awesome article about the history of XBox issues

grcswoosh

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Oct 5, 2007
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#1
http://venturebeat.com/2008/09/05/x...istory-of-microsofts-video-game-console-woes/


Very very long but a lot of good info about management decisions that have help and hurt the 360 over come the PS. Crazy stuff.

In an Aug. 30, 2005 memo, the team reported overheating graphics chip, cracking heat sinks, cosmetic issues with the hard disk drive and the front of the box, under-performing graphics memory chips from Infineon (now Qimonda), a problem with the DVD drive, and other things.
The test machines were not properly debugged, due to an ill-advised cost-cutting initiative that shaved $2 million from $25 million paid to Cimtek, a test machine maker in Canada. The Microsoft team decided not to pay the consulting fee to Cimtek to build, manage and debug the test machines. Sources familiar with the matter said there were only about 500 test machines at the time of launch, a third of the 1,500 needed.
“There were so many problems, you didn’t know what was wrong,” said one source of the machines. “The [test engineers] didn’t have enough time to get up and running.”
Microsoft had more than 500,000 defective consoles that sat in warehouses. They were either duds coming out of the factory or they were returned boxes, according to inside sources. The yield was climbing, but far too slowly. The company stood by its statement that returns were within “normal rates for consumer electronics products.”
Source 1

Full article
 
C

Confinement

Guest
#2
Ah, I was just about to post this. A good article.

Xbox 360 defects: an inside history of Microsoft’s video game console woes

Dean Takahashi | September 5th, 2008

When his fourth Xbox 360 video game console died in April, Chris Szarek wasn’t surprised.
The Chicopee, Mass. gamer was accustomed to the hardware failures that became known throughout the Internet as RROD, or the “red rings of death” which flash when the console becomes inoperable.
A 40-year-old photographer, Szarek was a hardcore Microsoft fan who spent more than $1,000 on his games. But each time one of his Xbox 360 consoles failed, he had to spend time convincing Microsoft’s tech support that they should send him a new console. Each time he got a refurbished console as a replacement (a machine that had been returned to a repair center in Texas, fixed as much as possible, and then shipped back out). When he complained on the Internet and to the media about the shoddy product and poor customer service, people branded him a cry baby and wrote him off as a statistical anomaly. But by the spring of 2008, Szarek was vindicated. There were at least a million or two other people like him.
Szarek’s fourth machine lasted almost two years, experiencing the same short life that many other Xbox 360s suffered. Microsoft replaced these machines for free under the warranty that it announced on July 5, 2007, for defective Xbox 360s exhibiting what it more politely called the “three flashing red lights.” That warranty program cost Microsoft up to $1.15 billion, but the loss of face and loyalty among gamers in the fierce console war with Nintendo and Sony has been immeasurable. Szarek, who became a spokesman for dispossessed defective Xbox 360 owners, played a part in making Microsoft acknowledge its console quality problem.

This is the unauthorized tale of how Microsoft lost its chance to become the leader in the biggest market it has attacked beyond its twin monopolies in Office and Windows software. Rival game console maker Nintendo out-thought the larger players Microsoft and Sony by designing the Wii game console with a clever, intuitive game controller. Even so, Microsoft could have captured more gamers during this product generation, yet the RROD problem held it back. The Xbox 360’s defect problem will go down as one of the worst snafus in consumer electronics history.
Its own worst enemy
Microsoft knew it had flawed machines, but it did not delay its launch because it believed the quality problems would subside over time. With each new machine, the company figured it would ride the “learning curve,” or continuously improve its production. Even though Microsoft’s leaders knew their quality wasn’t top notch, they did not ensure that resources were in place to handle returns and quickly debug bad consoles. There were plenty of warning signs, but the company chose to ignore them. The different parts of the business weren’t aligned.
It reminds me of the German war machine just before World War I, as chronicled by Barbara Tuchman in the classic history book, “The Guns of August.” The German generals were intent on keeping their trains on time; but the leaders overlooked their chances for stopping the war altogether. The Schlieffen plan called for them to strike first. Once the Russians and French mobilized, the Germans had to move into action. They marched off blindly into tragedy.
Likewise, Microsoft’s strategy depended on beating its rivals to market. It couldn’t afford to stop and delay the launch in order to solve its quality problems, or so upper management believed. What Microsoft’s leaders didn’t realize was that getting to market first with a flawed machine would only win them a battle; and it risked the loss of the war.
“They got enamored with the idea of the Microsoft army rolling everything out at the same time,” said one knowledgeable source who asked not to be identified.
The quality problem negated much of the advantage of going first, and it has delayed the company’s plan to aggressively market the console and slash its prices. (Microsoft disputes this point; it cut the price of all three versions of its Xbox consoles by $50 to $79 on Wednesday. And the company believes it will sell more boxes than Sony will. But prices ought to be lower still during this stage of the console life cycle). That has stopped the company from reaching the broader market of consumers that Nintendo has won over. It has lowered its ambitions, hoping instead just to get a clear edge on third-placed Sony. The future profits that the company once hoped for are now likely to wind up in Nintendo’s pockets.
Microsoft’s top game executive, Robbie Bach, president of the Entertainment & Devices group, said at a dinner in July that Microsoft’s own research shows that gamers have largely forgiven the company for defective Xbox 360s. Microsoft has still sold more Xbox 360 consoles than Sony to date. But there is no doubt that the company has lost considerable good will among gamers. Before Microsoft offered free replacements, connsumers grumbled that they had to turn to forums, such as those on Ars Technica, to vent and to find solutions to problems that the company didn’t openly discuss. And for a couple of months now, Sony’s PlayStation 3 has been outselling the Xbox 360 in the U.S. for the first time.
“Fundamentally, their thinking shows that they are a software company at heart,” said one veteran manufacturing executive. “They put something out and figure they can fix it with the next patch or come up with a bug fix.”
The terrifying part of the story is that this kind of problem — where technology fails and no one knows what to do about it — can happen to any company.
About this story
I asked Microsoft to confirm or deny 35 different facts contained in this story. Instead, I received a formal statement from a Microsoft spokesperson, saying the company had already acknowledged an “unacceptable number of repairs” to Xbox 360 consoles and responded to the hardware failures with a free replacement program. The statement also said, “This topic has already been covered extensively in the media. This new story repeats old information, and contains rumors and innuendo from anonymous sources, attempting to create a new sensational angle, and is highly irresponsible.”
I don’t think this story is sensational. I have tried to verify the facts over several years. I view this story as the last chapter for my book on the making of the Xbox 360, “The Xbox 360 Uncloaked: The Real Story Behind Microsoft’s Next-Generation Video Game Console.”
The facts revealed themselves slowly, emerging from the day-to-day stories that I wrote about the game business. Some people might consider this post mortem to be ancient history. But the reverberations are still playing out today. They help explain why Microsoft isn’t being aggressive with its price cuts and why gamers aren’t getting bargains on hardware as they did the last generation. While I talked to many people for this story, few were willing to let me use their names. As you will see, not every source is anonymous, and we have included the viewpoint of Microsoft executives from past interviews.
The details are interesting because they offer a deeper look into how the console business runs than is otherwise available. Microsoft, for instance, still hasn’t perfected its Xbox 360 manufacturing process. In the absence of a precise chronology from Microsoft, some anonymous sources have tried to describe what happened. But the history of the decision making and inside story of what happened on the RROD has never been told, until now.
 

Insanehead

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Jun 1, 2007
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#3
Stuff like this is why I have not yet purchase the X360. By the time X360 got a little more 'stable' I already spent money upgrading PC to the point where my PC actually being more powerful than the X360/PS3 thus less reason to purchase next-gen consoles.

Now I only see myself buying the X360 only when it hits below $200 (with hard disk).
 

magma12

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Mar 20, 2008
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#4
I was going to buy one but money doesn't grow on trees, that's why I'm sticking with my ps3.
 

Vertisce

Superior Member
Sep 17, 2007
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#5
Thats Microsoft for you. Doesn't suprise me one bit. I hope they learned thier lesson and either make a quality product next time around or just bow out and give up. Do it right or don't do it at all.
 

grcswoosh

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Oct 5, 2007
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#6
Not sure what MS is supposed to take away from this. This allowed them to get a huge head start which has put them ahead of the PS3. Sure it sucks for us, but for MS it has meant a ton of profit.
 

The Sith

Forum Sage
Nov 15, 2007
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#7
I saw this article early this morning it is 6 pages long. Didn't want to post it because it mmay be flame bate material.
Both MS and Sony cancel out each others mistakes and it will serve both to be better prepared for the next gen.
 

pascale

Superior Member
Nov 2, 2006
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#8
Wow, that's "long." Damn, I'm feeling like an old man! Don't you whipper-snappers read books these days? ;)
 

TidalPhoenix

The Last of Us
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Dec 16, 2006
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#9
All been said and written a million times before by better authors who weren't late to the party. Sensationalises mistakes already admitted to by MS and is a small time writer attempting to make a name for himself. Read and digest it if you are into one sided, poorly written, non-objective articles. Otherwise give the article the attention it deserves and skip it.
 

seebs

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Dec 29, 2006
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#10
[QUOTE="Sparc, post: 0]All been said and written a million times before by better authors who weren't late to the party. Sensationalises mistakes already admitted to by MS and is a small time writer attempting to make a name for himself. Read and digest it if you are into one sided, poorly written, non-objective articles. Otherwise give the article the attention it deserves and skip it.[/quote]

Er, what?

I've seen lots of articles cover bits and pieces of this. I have not seen a better summary piece; if you have, feel free to point it out.

You say it's poorly written. Give specifics. Are there problems with the grammar? Can you show us how it could be written better?

As to "non-objective", well, duh. Columns are, by definition, not supposed to be objective. If you want objective, you have soulless cut and paste off the AP wire.
 

sainraja

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Jun 16, 2006
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#11
[QUOTE="seebs, post: 0]Er, what?

I've seen lots of articles cover bits and pieces of this. I have not seen a better summary piece; if you have, feel free to point it out.

You say it's poorly written. Give specifics. Are there problems with the grammar? Can you show us how it could be written better?

As to "non-objective", well, duh. Columns are, by definition, not supposed to be objective. If you want objective, you have soulless cut and paste off the AP wire.[/quote]

There has been one before it, a while back actually:
http://www.8bitjoystick.com/archive...about_xbox_360_red_ring_of_death_failures.php

But I don't think this was poorly written either. It explains a lot about how Microsoft handled the launch of the 360 or how they messed up the launch of the system.

EDIT:
(Whoops....I thought the article posted was this one: http://www.gamespot.com/news/show_b...0495&tag=;title;1&tag=latestheadlines;title;2)

I haven't read the one posted in this topic.

EDIT:
Ah, the article I read is basically a summary of the article posted here. Oops.....again.
 
R

Rapture

Guest
#12
Hopefully it teaches them a lesson. While my xbox 360 is still going strong with no issues. I'll wait before buying the NextBox.
 

daevv

The Mega Man
May 28, 2007
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#13
[QUOTE="Rapture, post: 0]Hopefully it teaches them a lesson. While my xbox 360 is still going strong with no issues. I'll wait before buying the NextBox.[/quote]

I would hope that the whole "RROD" episode served as a wakeup call to Microsoft in turn leading to better quality assurance/testing standards on their next system.

Also member to keep this on topic and report not feed the trolls when/if they appear.

~d
 
Oct 19, 2006
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#15
That was a very interesting read. Thankfully my launch 360 is still going strong, but I can't turn it on without the RROD lurking at the back of my mind. I spend most of my time playing XBLA games, so that probably extends its life a little.

I would love to read an article like this that focuses on all the internal errors at Sony before and after the PS3 launch because, let's face it, that didn't go too well either.
 

grcswoosh

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Oct 5, 2007
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#16
[QUOTE="R3D D3V!L, post: 0]The 360 is a really good console but Microsoft made several key errors which will condemn them to 3rd place at this "war".[/quote]
I see no evidence of your 3rd place theory yet. They may well be planning to release their next console before PS3 surpasses them which is not going to be anytime soon.

[QUOTE="Cator, post: 0]I would love to read an article like this that focuses on all the internal errors at Sony before and after the PS3 launch because, let's face it, that didn't go too well either.[/quote]
I totally agree.
 

X2

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Oct 13, 2004
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#17
Yea, what is this september, new month, new rrod thread. Got the psn vs xbl thread going on in the playstation section again. Stayin consistent month to month. Keep up the good work.:?
 

nskinnear

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Oct 12, 2007
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If there's one thing former San Jose Mercury-News writer Dean Takahashi knows, it's Microsoft's gaming hardware. In 2002, his book Opening the Xbox recapped the making of the software giant's first entry into the console game industry. Shortly after Microsoft launched its follow-up, Takahashi followed suit with The Xbox 360 Uncloaked.


It's little surprise then that Takahashi, currently a writer for Silicon Valley blog VentureBeat, would be the guy to go whole-hog into the saga of the Xbox 360 hardware's ongoing reliability issues. In a newly published feature that Takahashi considers the final chapter of his Xbox 360 book, the reporter meticulously recounts how Microsoft launched a gaming system with unacceptably high failure rates and its attempts to address the problem.

In July of 2007, Microsoft publicly acknowledged the so-called "Red Ring of Death" issue and took a corresponding financial hit of more than $1 billion to fix it. Prior to that acknowledgement, Takahashi reports that Microsoft had taken returns on 1.2 million of the roughly 11.6 million shipped Xbox 360s. However, the problems responsible for that return rate had been around since before the console hit shelves.

Takahashi quotes a Microsoft engineer who raised the issue of hardware reliability in August of 2005, months before the system's November launch. At the time, 68 of every 100 Xbox 360s made by Microsoft's Chinese manufacturing partners were coming off the line nonfunctional. Worse still, when the first batch of the system's three-core CPUs rolled off the line, only 16 percent worked.

On top of that, Microsoft reportedly altered the design of the system repeatedly in the latter stages of development. The company added hard drives to most machines and made wireless controllers standard, further blocking cooling airflow inside the console. There were even issues with the QA machines that supposedly ensured the 360's system reliability. Takahashi reports that the machines would approve faulty units and were not properly debugged because Microsoft wanted to save $2 million on a $25 million contract with its third-party manufacturer.

"It turned out in the end that this was all going too far, too fast," an unnamed source told Takahashi. "They were adding too many features after things were locked down. That incremental feature adding just made it fragile."

The article goes on to say the post-launch shortage of Xbox 360 systems was due partly to Microsoft's inability to make enough functioning units to satisfy demand. In the spring of 2006, Microsoft had half a million returned or defective units sitting in warehouses, all while publicly stating that returns were within normal rates for consumer electronics.

Problems with quality control continued to plague the system, so much so that Microsoft actually ceased production of the Xbox 360 in 2007 between January and June to find and address the issue, according to the report. The production stoppage was also due to a surplus of systems at retailers from the prior holiday season, a fact which led to accusations of channel-stuffing on Microsoft's part.

As for what the ultimate culprit for the faulty console was, Takahashi reports it was a combination of factors. The ATI graphics chip had overheating issues, solder joints were prone to failure, and assembly and memory issues were widespread.

"The video game industry has never seen a consumer problem as bad as the 'red rings of death' and the size of the $1.15 billion charge stands as one of the biggest liability glitches in consumer electronics history," Takahashi wrote. "How Microsoft handled the flaw may provide a lesson for all modern electronics companies; that is, if you are going to promote the hell out of something, it better work the way you say it does, and you better have a strong customer support and engineering debugging team to back it up."
Source

I'm still reading it all. Thought it was kind of interesting though.
 

sainraja

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Jun 16, 2006
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#20
[QUOTE="X2, post: 0]Yea, what is this september, new month, new rrod thread. Got the psn vs xbl thread going on in the playstation section again. Stayin consistent month to month. Keep up the good work.:?[/quote]

The article posted by the original poster is a new article. People can discuss that if they want, you don't have to read the "same thing over again" but you chose to enter to say the same thing YOU probably said in the last thread when you could have just avoided this.

Someone needs to inform you that this is a discussion forum, seriously.