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Y’know, Things Break

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Posted on September 5, 2011 AT 10:03pm

If only I could download patches for hardware bugs

When Peter Moore—who, at the time, was heading up Microsoft’s Xbox 360 efforts as corporate vice president of interactive entertainment business—uttered the words I’ve used as the title of this commentary back in 2007 as part of a response to the growing concern over Xbox 360 failure rates, I’m pretty certain he never imagined how infamous that line would become.

Not that he wasn’t right; things do break. The technology we have today is not only far more powerful and capable than what came before it, but also much more complex. Even so, I can’t help but have this feeling that, y’know, things really want to break in this day and age. While we all know that anecdotal evidence really isn’t so strong in the “evidence” category, bear with me for a moment. Since my mother purchased my very first console back in the early days of my childhood, I’ve owned nearly every major piece of gaming hardware to see release in this country (and beyond). I take pride in my consoles, keeping them in as good of a condition as humanly possible. And yet, never have I had the negative experience with gaming hardware that I’ve had this generation. Xbox 360? Red Ring of Death, fixed and then traded for a newer unit in hopes that it wouldn’t suffer the same fate. PSP? Original model with a Square button that now only halfway functions and a UMD drive that has decided UMDs are its mortal enemy. PS3? Came down with the Yellow Light of Doom (gotta love these terms) just a few weeks ago—an exceptionally large tragedy for me, as it’s a now-extinct 60GB model with full backward compatibility.

No logical person would expect a company to take responsibility for every single malfunction that a piece of technology may face over its life. However, when the gaming console that cost me—in the immortal words of then-Sony CEA president Kaz Hirai at E3 2006—“five-hundred and ninety-nine U.S. dollars” (purchased not four years ago) suddenly comes up with an issue now known to be a far-too-common defect, it’s hard not to feel a little raw. Especially when, as opposed to paying the company who created said hardware $120 to potentially send me back a refurb unit that may or may not last for another year, my best option right now—outside of just buying a whole new PS3—is to pay some random person I found on the Internet $40 to come to my house and fix it. And, of course, kill me with a giant ax while doing so.

The fact that I’m even considering buying a brand-new PS3 to solve this situation is, I think, part of the problem we consumers have gotten ourselves into. Arguments rise up constantly about how we need to demand more accountability from publishers and developers who now live under the strategy of shipping a new title and then fixing the known bugs. When our solution to well-documented and widespread hardware defects is to just shrug our shoulders and go charge a new one to our credit cards—something more than a few Xbox 360 owners did four or five times—aren’t we saying that it’s perfectly acceptable to apply the same strategy to the consoles and handhelds that are being sold to us?

Now, if you’ll excuse me—I need to hit the internet and see what good deals I can find on a PS3 Slim.

 

Eric L. Patterson, Executive Editor
Eric L. Patterson got his start via self-publishing game-related fanzines in junior high, and now has one goal in life: making sure EGM has as much coverage of niche Japanese games as he can convince them to fit in. Eric’s also active in the gaming community on a personal level, being an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming and consumer rights. Stalk him on Twitter: @pikoeri. Meet the rest of the crew.

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