Microsoft's Xbox 360: More Fun With Failure Rate Factoids
Following up on a recent writeup, a warranty-selling firm called SquareTrade is estimating a 16.4% failure rate on Xbox 360 game consoles, versus 3% for the Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 3 (thanks to Engadget for the heads-up). Several qualifiers immediately come to mind as I peruse the report:
- I’ll vigorously contest the vendor’s claim that a sample size of 1,000+ is "sufficient" for statistical significance, considering the millions of Xbox 360s that have to date been sold (17.7 million as of last month’s Consumer Electronics Show, to be exact), and considering that the Xbox 360 (along with, admittedly, the Wii) have been in production one year longer than the PS3,
- More statistics stretching; the vendor admits that the comparative data on the PS3 and Wii came from an even smaller sample set "in the high hundreds" (what does that mean?), and
- Keep in mind that the data measures warranty claims, not the number of console owners who’ve experienced a failure. In other words, a single heavy console user might experience multiple console failures (comprising both the original Xbox 360 and Microsoft-refurbished replacements).
With that said, one area where I do agree with SquareTrade is with respect to the vendor’s belief that most of the failures occurred with the first-generation hardware design, which relied on 90 nm-fabricated ICs and included a deficit of cooling support as compared to its successor’s approach. And generally speaking, I don’t dispute SquareTrade’s contention that the Xbox 360 failure rate is higher than that of its competitors.
But how will the Xbox 360’s failure rate and, perhaps more importantly, failure percentage trend going forward? On the one hand, as SquareTrade suggests and I concur, an increasing number of first-generation installed-base consoles will probably experience the dreaded RROD (red ring of death) going forward. On the other hand, second- and subsequent-generation hardware, now in full production, will presumably have a lower failure rate by virtue of its superior thermal attributes.
Will Microsoft expand the Xbox 360 installed base faster than its first-generation platform failure rate increases? And how aggressively is Microsoft committed to swapping out (and junking) customers’ failing first-generation gear with second-generation replacements, versus the current first-generation perpetual recycle (albeit with added cooling hardware augmentation) strategy? Enquiring minds, as they used to say, want to know…
In my particular case, my living room contains both a PS3 and an Xbox 360. I exclusively use the PS3 for red laser DVD playback, both because of its demonstrably superior de-interlacing and up-scaling performance, and because of its lower ambient noise output (reflective of its lower heat generation, and/or more efficient removal of generated heat). In fact, since I’m really not much of a gamer, and now that the PS3 supports the Windows Media audio and video formats, if I wasn’t into streaming Microsoft DRM-inclusive music or watching HD DVDs, the Xbox 360 would be rendered redundant.
I’ll wait a moment for all those readers who’ve previously accused me of being an Xbox 360 fanboy to pick themselves off their floors And in all seriousness, once I finally get around to building up the Windows (XP or Vista? Still deciding…) Media Center Edition PC that I’ve long been planning, the Xbox 360’s usefulness will go back up a notable few notches.
In closing on this particular topic, and from my RSS archives: