As UPS decides to take the full 5 days in their 3-5 day estimate of the delivery of my newly revived Xbox 360, I can't help be surprised at how smooth the process has gone to bring it back from the red ring of death. Although, they can still be criticized for how they have handled the hardware malfunctions, I was relieved to know that Microsoft is standing by their hardware and supporting their customers. I am still very anxious over the future of the console that presently gets most of my attention, for several reasons. Apparently, maybe not as anxious as my 360 is to get to game again
. I do, however, have good news to pass along to any newly initiated members of the Red Ring, as well as a challenge to Microsoft.
Once my initial anger and controller throwing passed at the sight of that horrific red ring, I retreated to the internet and began reading the first posts about the 360 warranty extension. Ironically, my crash happened the same day as the announcement. This calmed me a bit to know I'd at least be taken care of in some fashion. Between the painless phone call with the well versed technician, the constant email updates from Microsoft updating me on the status of my packaging, arrival of my system to their facilities, and subsequent departure, I really couldn't have asked for a large corporation to handle my problem any better, given the circumstances. It took roughly a full week to get my shipping materials, a week for my console to ship to their facilities, 2 weeks to repair the system, and now a week to receive the console. I do believe I beat the rush after the warranty extension as I'm reading some horror stories about a 2 month wait time for repairs
, which is unacceptable. However, in my case I asked for a estimated turn around time and every stage has been within their estimate, so in that regard my expectations have been met.
The core group of gamers that I shotty to the face on a regular basis on LIVE were a bit shaken to see one of their comrades become a statistic. My console is at least 6 months older than most of theirs, and a good number of them are gaming on Elites. They'd like to believe their consoles are untouchable, but you can't ignore the reports that all 360's produced to this point have the defective design flaw
at the source of the red ring. Yet, there is no recall in sight.
Microsoft is looking at a defining holiday season coming up. M$ has the chance to set the stage to knock out Sony completely as their only direct competitor, since Nintendo is right now untouchable in their defined market. The living room though is big enough for both a Wii and either a 360 or PS3 at this point. Sony is clinging to Blu-ray to pull them through until their 2008 game lineup can breathe some life into the gaming side of their console, as if, saying to themselves - "If we can just get through this holiday season without any more damage, we can get back on top." After putting on the best show at E3, dodging a PR nightmare around their price-drop
, the PS3 is finally managing to generate some decent sales numbers
. Well, this week Sony was slapped with yet another patent suit, this time over their parallel processing Cell chip. I'm not sure that the pain will ever stop in this generation for Sony. Every time they seem to right themselves, on their very next step they trip themselves all over again.
Honestly, I'm of the opinion that I'd like to see them fail miserably or pull out completely in this generation. Regroup, start fresh and innovate for the next generation, as I'm all for healthy competition. Innovation is my main problem with both Sony and Microsoft right now, as neither one of them is really initiating any major change to the gaming industry. They are growing and maturing it surely, but that's almost de-facto growth due to time. I'd love for one of the two of them to completely blindside the other one with a significant new feature or leap in the gaming experience, challenging the other one to make drastic changes as well. Nintendo has proven there is interest and money in previously untapped gaming audiences. We gamers are thirsty for something new, stop sequelling us to death with your games and your technology. Let's leave Nintendo out of this for the moment as they are making their impact elsewhere and no one really has the right to tell them how to run their business for a while. The best way to initiate a major change in the rest of the gaming industry at targeting the traditional gaming consumer, is for either one of the 360 or PS3 to fall soon and fall hard. Let's face it, if either company is committed to the industry, they will make a comeback. I'd rather see Sony fall now just to pay for taking their gamers for granted and not understanding what got them to the top in the first place. It's also fairly obvious from a business profitability stand point, that the PS3 has a much bigger risk of failure than the 360.
So what can Microsoft do to put themselves in the best position to dominate Sony? It's as simple as reinvigorating your existing fan base and gaining a loyal community. It can start tomorrow.
1) Admit the 360 design flaw causing the malfunction in all 360's
2) Allow repairs to include 360's that have the flaw but have not failed yet.
2) Detail the fix that's being implemented to repair the console.
3) Guarantee the fix will last.
4) Guarantee a shorter turnaround time for the repaired consoles.
5) Get the Falcon processor
6) Get a new Peter Moore.
7) Have him announce all of this to the gamer's himself along with the expected price drop for the consoles.
Microsoft, if you want the gaming market, take the hit. You've got that money for a reason, and if you are serious about owning the gaming community you are going to need to sacrifice a bit for this crowd. Both you and Sony are corporate giants that we will never trust farther than we can throw our controller. However, in the last 2 years the gaming division at Microsoft has become a lot more easy to relate to, humanized, and gamer friendly. The division has the illusion of being the cool brother within the huge, rich, and out of touch family that we all love to despise. Sony has the same PR problem as Baghdad Bob and they seem to be run by soulless, methodical, robots with no sense of their flaws. This is your chance, Microsoft, to embrace the gaming community. You've already taken a huge step forward, for you, in extending the warranty and paying back those that endured other useless repairs. Take that last remaining step and admit the entirety of the issue. Be transparent. We know the console is flawed, you know it's flawed. Either issue a recall or allow anyone that hasn't had an issue yet to send in for a fix preemptively. The last thing you want is for 360's to give out during the Halo 3 launch. Boost production and give us a drop dead date so we know that if we send it in, we will have the game back in time for Halo 3. Hell, use it as a promotional tool for the game. If that game, does what you need it to do, you've pretty much guaranteed your targeted Xbox LIVE yearly subscriptions for the rest of the consoles lifespan. Stand confidently by your product and to your solution. Give us details so we can be confident in the fix, and give buyers on the fence a reason to trust you again. The undecideds' are having to choose between two flawed consoles. It doesn't have to be that way. If it's left as is for the rest of the year, Sony is liking it's chances in 2008.
How does all of this get announced? Well, you need a new face for the 360.
Love him or hate him, Peter Moore was a great fit for promoting the 360. I thought he was great at handling the entire warranty situation (even if he was just smirking about the whole thing since he knew he was on his way out the door already). He was relatable, confident, well spoken, accessible, and is as good as you can hope for at having humility in bad press situations. It took me a while to warm up to him, but honestly a lot of us are a bit shaken by his exit. It doesn't help that Steve Ballmer is now taking about the console
, scaring us almost as much as we laugh at him. I'm also less than optimistic about Peter's replacement, Don Mattrick, as he has yet to make any waves since the announcement. He may end up being the face, but whomever it is, they are going to have to make an impact. You can power that by giving that person something to make an impact with - a chance to wipe the slate clean for the 360.
The foundation gamers that establish consoles as a success or a failure are getting fed up by the constant PR spins of Sony and Microsoft. Everything about their rivalry is stale and repetitive. If one of the companies would just step up and own up to their audience about their obvious mistakes with a plan to right them, it would be so unexpectedly refreshing that our loyalty would be all but guaranteed. They would distinguish themselves from their competition which would only reinforce their fan base. Unfortunately, right now neither company has to take the stand to do something great for the industry. Both companies are accepting flawed practices and wasting resources to pick up the pieces. Until one of them completely rights the ship and issues a true challenge of establishing a quality experience, product, and service - we will all be stuck in mediocrity.