Technical burnouts

I have to wonder what has been going on in the Microsoft and SONY research and development laboratories during the days when both Xbone and PS4 were under development. Both of these consoles have been gaining far too much negative press on the systems’ faults rather than on the games. What sort of engineers and designers are proud of a machine that is too delicate?

It’s a good thing that both of the companies have admitted the problems with their consoles, but that’s too late now. The damage has already been done. The negative press is out there, and a well informed customer will steer far away from the launch consoles for some time now.

However, we live in the era of the Internet, where even the faintest fart in Sahara desert will be reported as a massive methane explosion in the middle of nothing.

All the reported breakdowns of Xbones and PS4s are a small number of all the sold units. That’s a fact, but it is also a fact that as these small number of units are faulty, there is a possibility that units produced with same components in same batch can have the same breakdowns. The only really reliable way to know if any of the problems with these consoles are common is to check if there’s more than one in your friend circle.

The PlayStation was a faulty console en masse as it used to cook the laser, and pretty much all of my friends fixed it by turning the machine upside down. The revision of the PS1 fixed practically all of the issues with the console, and is build a bit more sturdier too, except the lid that was built to break after the first two times you insert a disc in it. I’ve seen original PlayStations scratching the game discs too, which just prompted my friends to buy pirated games from Russia even more, as you could get something like ten games for twenty marks. That’s around ten games for four euros, and they just bought new games like that because the machine kept eating old discs.

The  360’s Red Ring of Death was also a major issue, as one popped up in the middle of a game session years back. When you have three friends cursing the 360 for the same reason, there’s an issue. Personally, I never had my second-hand 360 die on me, but then again I did change the fan to a more powerful one and tinkered with its insides to prevent any problems with overheating. PS2 units also had a lot of troubles from what I’ve heard and read on the news, but I have seen none die personally. Then again, it was commonly reported that watching DVDs on your consoles would consume the laser faster, but who would want to watch their movies on a console anyway? That’s why you have either a PC or DVD/BD player.

Then again, I do admit that I watched one disc of Raijin-Oh on my Wii.

There’s also the problem that people were expecting these mechanical faults and jumped on them as soon as possible. Microsoft already admitted the disc drive problems and SONY blamed on the console faults as shipping damage, I have to question how these machines are built. The 360 had an awful quality control, a thing an electronics producer should never overlook, and now there’s been two instances of the magic smoke that makes electronics running has escaped Xbones. Whether or not this smoke issue is true is an open question, as mentioned in the forum.

What causes these problems is pretty rarely mishandling, but the way the physical console is designed. For example, the Xbone seems to drain so much power, that its power brick has its own damn fan. Everybody hates the separate power brick, especially now that Microsoft seems to have moved towards their own locked-design power cords, that just have an extra nudge to prevent you from using any other power cord than Microsoft’s own. Which is bullshit. Apple has done the same thing with their products, and it’s just as bullshit.

There’s a problem with modern consoles… well, modern is loosely applied here, as even some of the machines from the 90’s apply here as well, but the problem is that in increasing amounts these machines are designed for ideal use and environment. You can’t put anything on top of them any more, they barely can withstand one nudge and the goddamn piano black surface will get scratched to hell the moment the machine is out of the box.

Let’s be straight here for a moment; game consoles are consumer products that exist there to be used in a normal family environment. They are bound to get hits, bumps, moved around when they’re on and the occasional fall due to children and adults alike. A basement dwelling hermit that barely goes outside is not a proper comparison point. If these machines are deigned to exist in an environment that barely exists and asks the consumer to treat them like newborn babies, that’s a completely idiotic way to design anything. Design your machine to last and work for a long time, and the customers will like it more. A satisfied customer is good press, and a returning customer to boot.

GameCube wasn’t the best console out there, but it could take a sledgehammer to its side and play games. It could be dropped from few meters to a concrete floor, and it would still boot up and most likely play games just fine. It was build to last, much like the GameBoy, which could survive a bombing during the Gulf War. Nowadays you close your 3DS and it scratches the upper screen by itself. The Wii was reasonably well built too, surviving pretty bad drops and still be completely fine.

And now you’re thinking that Nobody treats their machines like that. It’s not about how they’re treated, it’s how a normal family life is. If these companies really want to sell their product to everybody, the machines need to withstand daily life. If not, then they can keep selling to the hardcore nerds and their small market, and finally wither away.

I can’t even buy a PC game from a store without it forcing me to subscribe to Steam. That’s just bad design all around.

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