XBOX 360 Failure Rate As High As 33%

According to reports from retailers, the XBOX 360 may have a failure rate of up to 33%. From DailyTech:

EB Games held conference calls for its Canadian stores informing them of the new policy changes and revealing alarming failure rates of the Xbox 360. “The real numbers were between 30 to 33 percent,” said former EB Games employee Matthieu G., adding that failure rate was even greater for launch consoles. “We had 35 Xbox 360s at launch I know more than half of them broke within the first six months (red lights or making circles under the game discs). Two of them were dead on arrival.”

The failure rate nearing a third of all Xbox 360 consoles was found at other retailers too. A Best Buy customer service department manager, who wished to remain unnamed, said that failure rates for the console were “between a quarter to a third” of all units sold.

“We see a ton of [Xbox 360s] come back all the time. We strongly push our customers to buy our service plans no matter what they buy, but it is especially important for them with the Xbox 360,” said the manager. “It’s a lucky thing for us that Microsoft extended the factory warranty to one year, because we were having a hell of a time dealing with the launch units. Now we don’t have to deal with those broken [Xbox 360s] until their second year, for those who have purchased the two year plans.”

Sad. If tipline complaints are an indication of truth, we’d say this was true. That being said, we strongly push our readers not to fall for Best Buy’s service plans, but to instead make sure they take advantage of their credit card’s warranty protection program. Most of Best Buy’s service plans are a ripoff, just ask Consumer Reports. Then again, most popular and well-regarded devices don’t secretly have a failure rate of 33%, so that probably sends all our haughty consumer advice right out the window.

Retailers Estimate Xbox 360 Failure Rate High as 33 Percent [DailyTech] (Thanks, Phil!)
(Photo: Spoon Monkey)

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  1. dbeahn says:

    Microsoft’s extended warranty is much better than Best Buy’s (dis)service plan…

  2. girtherobot says:

    Well, the one thing I’d question is just how many of the people returning defective units were standing their 360 on the side. It’s a well known problem that despite Microsoft’s claims (As Sony did with the PS2) the machine is NOT safe to stand up.

    I’d also question how many of the problems that come back are user created and covered up. I’ve known of some issues with them, to be sure, but no-where near these numbers.

    There are known heating issues as well, of course, which I blame Microsoft for, but I’m still skeptical of how much user idiocy played into this.

  3. B says:

    I’d like to see how this breaks down between consoles sold at launch and those sold in the later waves. I understand there were some design changes between those early models and the later ones.

  4. enm4r says:

    I’m waiting on the class action suit that is bound to come up. I have a day 1 unit, and while I’ve been fortunate not to have any problems, it seems like 33% is an accurate number taking into account the people I know and the forums I visit.

    I don’t even think there’s any way to describe how ridiculous 33% failure rate is for a consumer electronics device…

  5. tentimesodds says:

    The problem is heat. People aren’t used to having to air out their consoles so they put them in enclosed spaces, like entertainment centers. They also like to stack them like PS2s, but for some reason the 360 doesn’t like this. I have a launch console and it works great.

  6. Skiffer says:

    @enm4r: Yeah, that’s pretty insane…

    I’ve felt pretty lucky – 18 months with no problems. But I’m worried because I took a 6-9 month hiatus on my xbox use.

    But, I do have a friend who’s on his 4th unit (Final Fantasy addict)…

  7. SurrenderMonkey says:

    I’m considering a 360 purchase sometime in the future, so hopefully they’ll have all of the bugs fixed by then. If not, here I come extended warrenty…

    It’s bullshit though, you pay $400 for a box and it breaks? Unacceptable.

  8. ajn007 says:

    Hmmm, let’s see. Retailers are claiming a quarter to a third failure rate and then suggesting that people buy their extended warranty plans.

  9. nlatimer says:

    Well I guess you can’t really expect a software company to know about Six Sigma, but 33% is beyond ridiculous. Ludicrous, perhaps?

    I personally want an Xbox 360 almost as badly as I want a Wii, only a lack of funds has kept me from buying either. Maybe I should consider my current penury a slight blessing from the alternative of a abundance of repaired and refurbished Xbox 360s.

    I do have a friend’s whose Xbox 360 just broke and had to be sent in for repairs. Another friend bought his used, so I hope his doesn’t break. My final friend who has one is in the army, bought his at launch, however he’s rarely home to play it, so no problems so far. I jokingly said that the failure rate must be 33% to them from this sampling, but its scary how right that may turn out to be.

  10. mathew says:

    Nice to know Microsoft’s hardware is as good as their software.

  11. ShadeWalker says:

    @SurrenderMonkey: i bet there’s a market for 400 dollar boxes that break.

  12. TechnoDestructo says:

    God damn. What was the failure rate on those class-action-lawsuit IBM hard drives? Wasn’t that around 30 percent?

  13. rbf2000 says:

    @SurrenderMonkey: Good thing that cars never break, I mean, if it’s unacceptable for a $400 console to break with normal use, then I can’t even imagine how unacceptable it is for a $20,000 car to break with normal use.


    I’m still weary of these numbers. Going off what an employee states “they’ve noticed” is a lot different than hard numbers. Frankly, I don’t trust them. When I worked customer service at Circuit City, I didn’t notice anywhere near that sort of defective rate on consoles.

    Additionally, as I have mentioned before, sometimes people return products that work just fine as “defective” because they think that’s the only way to return it. Most CC employees don’t even bother to check the merchandise to see if it’s actually working, so perfectly functioning hardware could be returned as defective.

  14. crispen says:

    I was in the “no way the failure rate is that high” camp until: 1) I saw a thread at XBox.com where over 800 people (+/- 100) listed the dates their 360s died [see [forums.xbox.com] and 2) My 360 died. My 360 was placed horizontally on a small table well removed from direct sunlight. In fact, the table was so marrow that the 360′s vents extended well past the table edges, ensuring unobstructed airflow from all directions. Oh, and the room never gets warmer that 72 F. And I’m only a weekend gamer — I have ~3,000 gamer points and it took me over a year to get to that level.

    There’s a design problem here, folks.

  15. SleepingDude says:

    Why wonder, every MS EULA says “we are not responsible, use at your own risk”.

    Imaging Microsoft would design and program Intel processors…

  16. markymags says:

    I had a day one unit that broke. I kept pretty good care of it – I didn’t put it inside an unvented entertainment unit and did not stack other electronics around it. I reckon it had something to do with the power cord laying on carpet and not venting out very well. My 360 started freezing up (this was after a year but before Microsoft extended its warranty on all 360s) and eventually showed the red ring of death. I tried everything and had to return it to Costco (Microsoft was going to charge me to send it in).

    I am on my second console and haven’t had too many problems. Games were freezing up but once I elevated the power supply off the carpet it hasn’t frozen up since (knock on wood).

    All this talk has me yearning to play some Rainbow Six: Vegas… too bad I’m stuck here at work.

  17. tcp100 says:

    Failure rate estimations by retail anecdotes are really unreliable. Employees notice returns a lot more than sales, which happen all the time without everyone even looking. I’m sure the return rate is higher than other products, but to have some manager estimate “a quarter to a third” is a wide range, and probably woefully inaccurate.

    Also, anyone with the logic of “it costs $400, it better not break” really shouldn’t be buying consumer electronics. XBox hardware is sold at a loss; $400 may be a lot of money for you, but it’s not a lot of money for what it is. The margin on computer hardware and consoles is very low – money is made on the software.

    Think of it this way.. If you buy a $400 laptop, would you be surprised if it breaks? How about a $400 dvd player, vs a $400 dvd recorder? (Technology complexity is about the same, but implied price and actual prices are different..)

    As a matter of fact, less-thorough QC and yield rates are probably what allows the sale of the XBOX 360 at $400. Companies weigh inevitable returns vs. cost reduction to sell the stuff. MS no doubt calculated a certain failure rate; and probably calculated wrong – but to imply “it better not break” (zero defect) is waay unrealistic.

    If anything, if the failure rate is high – stores wouldn’t want to sell extended warranties. Stores make money on extended warranties that aren’t used; not ones that are.

  18. tcp100 says:

    @crispen: It’s no doubt a thermal problem, and a problem in design or expected use / environment. I’m just saying that someone should try to get actual rates from MS, not best buy. I’d guess it’s closer to 20% (which is still abysmally high); gotta just wait for some lawyer to pressure MS and see what they do.

  19. Techguy1138 says:

    It seems a large number of launch consoles have broken but that isn’t necesarly tragic.

    Do state lemon laws apply to consumer electronics?

    Some xbox 360′s seem to last at least a year but in some cases a broken xbox is replaced with a previously broken xbox. I have never heard of somone who has had an xbox repaired who did not have a problem within a year of the replacement.

    What actions are available for consumers? Are there options besides simply accepting any old piece of garbage the company sends you?

  20. howie_in_az says:

    Wow, the Xbox 360 failure rate is 10% higher than the President’s approval rating.

  21. nachas101 says:

    @girtherobot:
    Um.
    You are wrong.
    The 360 runs better when used vertically as opposed to horizontally.
    Sorry.

  22. tentimesodds says:

    @tentimesodds: Okay, this is not even a joke–my launch unit just bricked today. 3 red lights of death. I definitely should have known better than to tempt fate.

  23. nachas101 says:

    @tentimesodds:
    You are also incorrect.
    My 360 didn’t spend a single day in an entertainment unit.
    If it was on, it was free standing and usually extremely well ventilated (in direct air flow from an AC).
    Don’t assume that the users are at fault.
    And, by the way, I’ve owned a ps2 and XBOX for years, and used it in an entertainment system without a single failure.
    This isn’t a case of user error. This is a design flaw having to do with the dreaded XBrace and crappy thermal paste.

  24. nachas101 says:

    @Techguy1138:
    Lemon laws apply, but the 360′s specific situation doesn’t qualify.
    Lemon laws give the manufacturer an opportunity to fix an issue a certain number of times PER UNIT before the lemon law can be enforceable.
    On cars, they can fix your car 4 times before you can claim a lemon.
    Fixed units rarely, if ever, have a problem.
    I took mine to a local game shop, where a tech removed the xbrace and cleaned the crappy thermal paste off, replacing it with high quality paste.
    No problems anymore. And since the xbrace is gone and the chip is attached to the board properly, I don’t expect that it will.
    This is a DESIGN flaw.
    Bottom line.
    Some people are lucky in that their boards don’t warp as much under heat. The remaining 30% of us that aren’t, aren’t.

  25. royal72 says:

    it’s definitely a heating issue as has been stated, specifically it’s the ibm chip. before apple went to intel they were using basically the same chips from ibm. apple had to design the pro line g5 tower housing specifically to keep them cool and they worked great. when they incorporated them into the imac, with the sleek and thin enclosure, there were all kinds of heat breakdown issues.

  26. iro_otoko says:

    I believe it. My 360 just died a couple of days ago. Two weeks after the warranty was up. Just started freezing after about a minute of game play, no matter what I was playing. Really pissed me off since I took great care of the machine. Now I have to cough up 140 bucks and hope the refurb they send me will last longer than a year and two weeks.

  27. Dancing Milkcarton says:

    @royal72 – my understanding was that it’s a GPU heat problem, not the CPU.

  28. thewriteguy says:

    Here’s a link to a water-cooling mod for the 360:
    [www.hardocp.com]

  29. foamking says:

    My local Best Buy’s display 360 was struck down with the RRoD today! While I was in the store!

    My friend has gone through 3 systems and is on his 4th. Each one, he bought an extended store (Gamestop) warranty – and every 4 months he’s been back at the store.

    Stores are making cash in-directly – they make money on each sale and on each warranty renewal – so I don’t pity them. Nor do I pity MS (which should be seeing some court dates in the future), but I do feel bad for he people who constantly have to cough-up cash to just play a game with some buds.

    Next gen math for my friend:
    360 system – $400.00
    Store warranty – $240.00 (4 x $80.00)
    XBox LIVE Sub – $100 (2 year subscription)
    Peripherals – $150 (Controller, headset, cam, remote)
    Games (discs) – $400
    Games (marketplace) – $200

    2 years of Nex Gen gaming – $1500

    I still don’t see how MS is loosing money on these things – the retailers don’t seem to be complaining…or the gamers.

  30. Thrust says:

    These busted XBox’s weren’t in contact with the Allspark were they? That damn cube caused no end of trouble when it hit my NES Zapper… Still haven’t replaced the TV. Could be worse, damn Nokia phones will kill you man.

    Seriously though, if the box says Microsoft, and you expect it to be anything closely resembling a functional product, get back on the short bus you Dee Dee Dee. Or doesn’t Windows 95 ring a bell, or 98 First Edition… NT the uncrashable, ME… OH Damn ME was a pain… And then there was Media Centre Edition and the tv/pc hybrid monstors… And wait, what’s that I hear calling…. Could it be another bum copy of VISTA? Or just a new Halo2Vista error message, possibly with more naked asses.

  31. loraksus says:

    @nachas101:

    Lemon laws vary between states – and the laws in some states suck major ass. Louisiana requires 4 repairs to fix the exact same issue (which never happens because the dealer will claim it is actually another issue, etc) or a vehicle to be 90 days at the dealership getting fixed.
    Anyone who thinks crying “lemon law” will get a new xbox is a bit too optimistic.

  32. stevemis says:

    @Techguy1138: Every state has their own “Lemon Law” (and some don’t have anything). There is a federal law, known as the Magnuson-Moss Federal Warranty Act, which covers consumer products priced over $15. It allows for a “reasonable” number of repair attempts, at which point the consumer would have the option for a replacement or refund.

    Please see:

    [en.wikipedia.org]

    Steve

  33. mac-phisto says:

    well, there are currently 4 360′s in my house & 2 of them are bricked, so i guess my failure rate is 50%. 1 of those bricked boxes is actually a refurbed unit sent to me after my first one bricked (so, actually out of 5, 3 bricked…now we’re up to 60%). the other unit was refused repair b/c according to xbox repair, “the tamper sticker was removed & replaced upside-down”?!?!? whatever.

    none of the issues that we’ve seen deal with heat: the first unit had an issue w/ the audio connections, the second & third are both drive issues.

    i took apart the unit that was refused repair after microsoft wouldn’t even repair the unit for a fee (this was my pre-consumerist era, so i didn’t know you could do things like bother bill gates at church until he personally fixes your unit, or smash your xbox & get a new one). imho, the problem isn’t heat; it’s cheap-ass components. i reckon they paid about 30 cents for the drive unit, the ribbon cables are flimsy as hell, & it looks like they hired 6 yr-old chinese kids to solder the boards.

    still, i love my 360.

  34. Thrust says:

    If it bursts into flames it may just be a Dell inside.

  35. BloodyDuck says:

    Those reports are purely anecdotal and don’t have any actual real data supporting them. For Consumerist to present them as fact is grossly irresponsible.

  36. kerplunk17 says:

    @ FOAMKING
    I think 4 x $80.00 is $320.00

  37. schattendrache says:

    Assistant manager at a high-volume Gamestop here. We ship out about six or so defective 360s a week (new, refurb and bricked trade-ins) while we sell about ten to fifteen a week. Of course the numbers vary (shipped twelve defects one week) but the averages are consistently alarming. I usually recommend buying used rather than new and purchasing a one-year warranty with it. Those things are not to be trusted not to break.

  38. Techguy1138 says:

    “Those reports are purely anecdotal and don’t have any actual real data supporting them. For Consumerist to present them as fact is grossly irresponsible.”

    No that isn’t true. The consumerist is a place where anecdotal evidence is presented to help counter a lack of corporate information. There is more than enough anecdotal evidence at this point to pose as a warning to consumers about the xbox360. The same can be said for Bank of America and airlines.

    Right now anyone who wants an xbox360 and expects it to last more than 1 year should be certain to buy it with a credit card, save the original box, receipt and purchase the extended warranty.

    The stories are getting to the point where they should be advising people on the state by state requirements of MS to refund the purchase price or get a NEW not refurbished unit.

    While recalls are usually only issued for dangerous products, Such as Sony batteries, MS should really consider something of the like.

    I wonder if people really knew what the actual failure rate was if they would be so forgiving to simply purchase a new xbox when theirs broke,or put with with multiple repair attempts.

  39. dc2ek4 says:

    i never had problems with my ps, ps1, or ps2, nintendo or supernintendo… but for xbox to price something so high and have a failure rate at almost about half is rediculous and should be punishable by law. im sending my xbox in after having it six months. i barely play it, and im getting 3 red flashing lights.. “hardware problems”… wow

  40. lebronjc says:

    @tcp100:

    Not Talking about the failure rate but,
    Considering how the prices of computers and the components goes down every few months, Do you think the 360 is still selling at a loss?
    I dunno, maybe intially but its been like 2 years.
    I wonder what the price break down for the inards of the 360 are now.

  41. mac-phisto says:

    who cares if it’s selling at a loss – consoles have never been a money maker for game cos. they make their money on accessories & licensing – oh yeah, & the ability to sell you your 36th copy of tetris (or insert name of other billion year old game that cost pennies to port, yet still costs $60 at the register).

  42. xamarshahx says:

    Warranty Extended:
    [www.xbox.com]

  43. xamarshahx says:

    Warranty Extended:
    [www.xbox.com]

  44. xamarshahx says:

    Xbox extends the warranty for certain problems with the console: [www.xbox.com]

  45. loraksus says:

    I went to future shop (Canadian best buy) today and saw the staff fretting over a dead xbox with that same light pattern. “This is the 3rd one in like 2 months”
    Funny (guess you shouldn’t run them under glass :)

  46. Mine failed the other day, just watching a regular DVD. Joy!

    My blog: [www.pdsys.org]