Xbox's red ring of death?

April 1, 2008 4:38:21 PM PDT
Have you heard of the red rings of death? If you have, you are probably an online gamer. If you haven't, you have a lot to learn. It's one of the nation's worst kept secrets.

It's known as the red ring of death, the red ring of doom, or the ring of fire. If you know where to look on the Internet, you can find plenty of pictures of the phenomenon.

"The three rings of death is actually a series of three lights that form around the power button on the Xbox 360. It's kind of a warning sign to call tech support in a hurry," says Darren Gladstone with PC World.

Gladstone says when the red ring shows up on your Xbox 360, the game is about to, or has already, crashed.

I asked my son, Connor, and his friends who play on the Xbox 360 for their thoughts.

Connor's friend Trevor Coons told me he didn't know about it until they started talking about it in school.

"Everybody started to talk about it sort of and I heard more and more stories about it, so Ross sort of sparked the whole craze," says Connor.

That's because Ross Butler experienced the ring of death.

"It just flashes three rings and in the top right-hand corner it shouldn't flash one," says Ross.

So word was spreading by word of mouth, than by Internet, and now this technical problem has its own theme song posted on YouTube with the lyrics,"and when I got that dreaded ring of fire, I called Microsoft for the repairs that I require."

So how big of a problem is this?

"There's a lot of people talking about the Xbox being unreliable," says Steve Abernathy, CEO of an electronics warranty company called Square Trade. "We did a study looking at over a thousand warranties sold on the Xbox and the results were of a thousand-plus boxes, about 16 percent failed relative to about 5 percent for the other main consoles out there."

Microsoft doesn't release its failure rates, but if Abernathy is correct, that's three times the industry failure rate average. Microsoft is reacting, in record time setting aside a billion dollars to deal with the issue.

This is the company statement to 7 On Your Side:

"Microsoft stands behind its products and has taken responsibility to repair or replace any Xbox 360 console that experiences the 'three flashing red lights' error message within three years from time of purchase free of charge, including shipping costs."

"The fact is they put money aside... in extended warranties for a problem. So in my mind, yes, they are addressing the problem and they are making good faith efforts to try to fix the problem," says Gladstone.

If you have a problem with your Xbox let me know about it. Microsoft is expediting all complaints filed through 7 On Your Side.

Microsoft answers to questions from 7 On Your Side:

Q: What occurs when the red ring appears?

A: When the Ring of Light on the front of the Xbox 360 console flashes red, the upper- right quadrant light is the only light that does not flash red, it may indicate that the Xbox 360 console has experienced a hardware failure.

Q: What should customers do about it?

A: If a customer is experiencing this issue, they can call into customer service to have their console repaired. Customers can call 1-800-4MY-XBOX (1-800-469-9269).

Q: Has the console been redesigned and what is the length of warranty?

A: As a result of what Microsoft viewed as an unacceptable number of repairs to Xbox 360 consoles, the company conducted extensive investigations into potential sources of general hardware failures. Having identified a number of factors which can cause general hardware failures indicated by three red flashing lights on the console, Microsoft has made improvements to the console and has enhanced its Xbox 360 warranty policy for existing and new customers.

Microsoft stands behind its products and has taken responsibility to repair or replace any Xbox 360 console that experiences the "three flashing red lights" error message within three years from time of purchase free of charge, including shipping costs. Microsoft took a approximately $1 billion pre-tax charge to earnings for the quarter that ended June 30, 2007 for anticipated costs under its current and enhanced Xbox 360 policies.


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