Alright, so since Olsen (11-17-2005, 03-12-2007) gave up the ghost almost three weeks ago now, I have simply been too busy to deal with the situation, but last night I finally got my shit together and called 1-800-4MY-XBOX to see what I needed to do to solve the problem.
Max - a polite but 'trying-too-hard-to-be-cool' voice-recognition help bot answered and tried to walk me through the steps to troubleshoot poor Olsen. I have the dreaded 'three-red-lights' issue, so I knew it was going to end badly anyway.
First step was to remove the harddrive. Walkthrough failure right there. I couldn't get the harddrive out. It's never been removed since I got it at launch, so maybe it was a little stiff or something, but I just couldn't pull the fucker out, so that was the end of Max (he could not understand this problem), and he passed me on to Jessie.
Jessie was also polite, but 'trying too hard to not sound too much like a voice-recognition help bot'. She must have apologized 300 times, to the point where it was starting to make me angry - so my one complaint up to this stage would be to have the operator apologize less. Jessie - are you actually sorry that I have a hardware failure? You shouldn't be. It's not your fault. It's not even really Microsoft's fault. It's first gen hardware and it lasted over a year of pretty intensive use. Anyway, Jessie walked me back through the troubleshooting steps. This time, when I got to the remove the harddrive part, I once again could not pull it out. Unlike Max, Jessie didn't experience an interupt (proof that either she was human, or MS is doing some really cutting edge shit with those help bots). Jessie put me on hold and went and asked someone what the hell she was supposed to do.
Anyway - while I was on hold I thought to myself - fuck it, if I'm gonna have to send it in anyway, who gives a shit if I bust the harddrive getting it out? So I grabbed a screwdriver and pried the thing out of there. It popped out no problem. Nothing broke, and now it clicks in and out easily. Jessie comes back on, and I tell her I got the harddrive out, so we move onto the next troubleshooting steps. No HDD failure, no power supply failure. Congratulations sir, your console is fried.
So - warranty time. Well, I had heard that MS extended the warranty on all their 360s by a year. That was good because, hey, 1 year warranty on purchase in November 05, add a year to that means everything is still covered, right? Wrong. Turns out that I only had a 3 month warranty on purchase, and further that MS didn't add a year they extended the existing warranty to a year. So I'm not covered. I knew I should have played Dead Rising more and fried it before my warrenty expired. Oh well.
So how much is it gonna be? $168.00 CDN says Jessie. They'll send me a box via Purolator which I'll receive in 3 business days, and then I'll ship it (shipping is paid) to the service center, and they will send it back within 6-8 days. Entire turnaround should be about 2 weeks. I tell Jessie I have to think about it.
What do I have to think about?
Well, first, the new X360 Elite is coming out at the end of April. It's 479.99. It's packed with second gen hardware and a bigger HDD, and apparently it's a lot quieter. Or I could consider putting that money toward a PS3. It seemed to me when I first read about the 360 warranty extension that it was really all about stopping people with hardware failures from buying a PS3 instead of repairing their 360. It seemed like a smart strategy, but if it has holes in it that still leave me out almost 200 bucks, well - that's 200 bucks off the price of a PS3, right?
So I thought about it overnight.
Here's the long and short of it. I don't need a PS3 right now because there aren't any games that I need a PS3 for, and because I don't want to have to start replacing the hundreds of DVDs I own with BluRays and because I don't have an HDTV. I might get a PS3 in the future, but it just doesn't make sense for me to be an early adopter. On Microsoft's side, I actually don't have a problem with my 'bad luck' on the warranty. 1st gen hardware often fails. I was luckier than many - I know people who have gone through THREE 360s in the last 16 months. If it runs me 170 bucks because of a bit of rough luck, that's the way it is. It's not about the money. It's about the service. I have heard a few nightmare stories of turn-arounds on 360 repairs. If that happens to me, it will be bad for Microsoft. They have my loyalty as a consumer. They have my willingness to give them my disposable income. They have earned my trust and respect through a solid working relationship, and my games have directly benefitted from their support. If this two weeks turns into two and a half months of hassle for no reason, well, there are other people out there who would like to have my money I'm sure.
When I said a year ago that 'the next-gen doesn't start until Sony says it does', I meant it. 'Next-gen' is not a technology war, or a price war, or even a war over better games. It's a war for mindshare. Technology, price and games - these are the big battles in the war. The strategies in these battles are determined. Sony's hardware innovation - for example - is pushing the envelope of what a console can do.
The other part of the war is the battle for service and it's not one big battle, it's thousands - millions - of little ones. It's a statistical battle. Each side spends millions on fuzzy concepts like training and staffing their tech support and customer service centers, improving the logistics in shipping and handling, pinpointing the ideal amount of time a caller has to talk to 'Max' before getting transferred to Jessie. Knowing how many times Jessie can apologize before it becomes annoying instead of appeasing. All of this for what might only be a 2-3 percent shift in mindshare. The question is will the 2-3 percent that comes out of this battle be the deciding factor in the war? Who knows? It seems like 2-3 percent is more than enough these days. We'll see how close the 'next-gen war' really gets in the next year I guess.
Anyway, this morning I called back and spoke with Michelle - who also apologized too many times. Maybe I should get 5 Achievement points everytime someone on the support line says 'I'm sorry'. I gave her my credit card number and took the $168.00 hit. I'll expect my box from Purolator to arrive in 3 business days - Thursday or Friday at the latest. I'll get 1 year warranty on the repair, plus 1 free month of XBox Live, and hopefully everything will be fine. We'll see what happens next.