Xbox 360 On a Crash Course With Gamers

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It’s been five months since the Xbox 360 landed in short supply just in time Christmas. Many of those who scrambled to get their hands on one, paying thousands on eBay to ensure a Yuletide joy-in-the-box, probably never dreamed they’d be on their fourth console by May.

Sony, you may have a winner. Again. The online community weaves tales of an Xbox return-o-rama as their consoles spend more time in boxes than hooked to their TVs.

Microsoft says return rates for the console are in the normal three to five percent range, which translates to about 50,000 gamers who’ve spent at least a little time cursing and pounding their machines after the internal mechanisms melt into pickled stink.

But if you scan the blogosphere and online forums dedicated to Xbox 360 problems (from their rhetoric, “problems” is understating), it appears that many of those returns were from gamers who had monthly breakdowns (we’re assuming the machines had breakdowns, not the gameror are we?).

Chris Szarek may not be the unluckiest Xbox owner, returning three consoles so far, but he may be the loudest. The Mercury News blog reports that Szarek didn’t even get new ones to replace them; Microsoft sent refurbished models. And he had to fight for those by making lots of noise in online forums to get attention.

But he’s not the unluckiest. The top discussion at xbox360faults.co.uk is by a poster that claims to be returning her 4th console to await a fifth one. The forum is littered with terms like “2nd Xbox360,” 3rd Xbox 360,” “crashes,” “horror story” and “overheats.”

Speaking of overheating, there’s a site just for that problem: xboxoverheating.com.

Google results for [xbox 360 problems] yields about 20 million results. The first page has titles like:

Xbox-Scene News: Xbox 360 Crashing Like Mad?

BetaNews | Microsoft Sued for Xbox 360 Problems

Microsoft admits to ‘isolated’ Xbox 360 problems – vnunet.com

Xbox 360 Scratches Game Disks

Though 1.75 million consoles have been sold worldwide, just 120, 000 were sold in Japan as of March. Even Game Cube outsold it. Perhaps they’re waiting for PlayStation3, which was higher tech and reportedly three years ahead of its time to begin with, and delayed because the next-generation technology made it too expensive. It could be worth the wait.

Maybe Microsoft goofed. Not to make the mistake of being second on the market twice, the idea was to get the console out before PlayStation3 and in time for Christmas. Maybe their zeal was premature. Limited games, limited supply, a product that seems to break. This may not turn out to be the Cinderella story they were looking for.

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