Along with all of the commercial and critical software hits of the Xbox 360, Xbox Live’s innovations in online, and Microsoft’s successes against more established videogame hardware makers, the ugly blemish staining those accomplishments will be the defect known as the "Red Ring of Death."
To Microsoft’s credit, though, after a period of denial, the company made substantial, fiscally painful moves to help remedy the hardware-killing issues that are alerted through three flashing red lights on the face of the console. Notably, Microsoft admitted in July 2007 "an unacceptable number of repairs" that had to be done to Xbox 360s, subsequently earmarking around $1.1 billion to cover the cost of an extended warranty good for three years for "RROD"-afflicted systems.
But when consumers send in consoles for RROD-related repairs these days, what kinds of fixes does Microsoft implement, and will gamers just end up sending back "fixed" Xbox 360s to be patched up a few months down the line? Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg hopes that will not be the case. "We’ve improved that [repair] process," he says, declining to get into specifics. "It’s very quick, and they may upgrade your system with the latest technology. So that works really well.
"…What we do in general, the way that it works, is that they will fix it with the latest [hardware] improvements that we’ve applied [to current Xbox 360s]. Obviously we’re continuously improving the technology inside the box, not to get too technical. So they’ll apply that when they make the increments to your system."
As with many consumer electronics, and certainly videogame consoles, hardware makers make continuous improvements to hardware, most not outwardly visible. By updating a console with, for example, cooler-running components or reducing the number of internal parts, the changes not only benefit gamers, but also cut costs. The Xbox 360 is no exception, as the latest hardware revision, codenamed "Jasper," reportedly hit the market late last year.
However, there have been past reports of "refurbished" Xbox 360s failing multiple times after being sent in for repair. A report by Venture Beat’s Dean Takahashi chronicled one Xbox fan who had gone through four refurbishes, while one can find any number of unsubstantiated claims by forum-goers who have likewise cycled through multiple Xbox 360s.
Greenberg claims such problems should soon be a thing of the past. "We’re seeing great performance of the current systems, so we’re really happy with the way they’ve been performing. … From friends that have had [repairs] done as of late, I can tell you from our own internal staff that we’re seeing very strong performance from a quality standpoint.
"What it comes down to is isolating and figuring out the issue, fixing the issue, and the more that we can fix the issue, and know it’s fixed, then we’re good going forward. We’ve put the worst behind us on this, but we know there are a few lagging systems, and so we want to take those and make it right."
So what are the exact hardware updates that apparently find their way into fixed Xbox 360s? Following standard practice, Greenberg says he can’t reveal the exact specifications that are applied to today’s fixed Xbox 360s because Microsoft’s "attorneys would not allow me to say that."