Even though the Xbox 360 is statistically speaking the current leader in the next-gen console wars, it’s pretty far from perfect as many disappointed users will gladly tell you. From the beginning, the console has suffered from a variety of problems: some overheat and die, some scratch discs beyond repair, and all of them make you think there’s a jumbo-jet in your living room. However, there might still be hope for a better console, since Microsoft announced that their current project, code-named “Falcon,” is well on its way to deliver a completely revamped 360 to consumers.
With summer in full swing, temperatures are on the rise and so are the complaints. Over the last few months, Microsoft has had an unusually high number of complaints about its consoles sticking it to users with the now infamous “Red Ring of Death,” meaning that the console suffered one or more fatal hardware failures. Many have come to suspect that the failures are due to the consoles inability to deal with heat – a problem that has plagued the 360 since the first batch.
Earlier this month, Microsoft crunched some numbers and came to the conclusion it would be in their best interest to extend the warranty, again. However, this new extended three year warranty only applies to the consoles that have been afflicted by the ominous red ring. So, this means that if your console suffers (or has suffered) a heatstroke, you can send it back to Microsoft to have it repaired and shipped back to you; all of this, free of charge. All of this benevolence does come at a cost to Microsoft though. According to the press release that went out, the company is expecting this move to cost them an estimate $1.05 billion to $1.15 billion – for this quarter alone!
So, what’s the solution to this entire mess? Well, redesign parts of the console, of course. Microsoft wasted no time Monday evening at E3, and was quick to announce that the gaming division was already hard at work designing a cooler 360, based on a 65nm design. The goal of the “Falcon” project is to have the more robust console on store shelves by this fall. The redesign will apply to both the triple-core CPU as well as to the AMD/ATI GPU.
Updating the console with smaller, cooler parts will not only improve the airflow and heat dissipation inside the unit, but will also mean cheaper fabrication costs for Microsoft. In the long run, keeping current with the manufacturing cost curve will allow Microsoft to save tremendous amounts of money. Sony’s latest redesign of the PS 2, for example, allows the company to produce smaller, and thus cheaper, chips all the time. The current chip costs of the PS 2 is a mere 13% of what it was originally. It’s not all simply about the heat.
For Microsoft’s sake, let’s hope that the Xbox “Falcon” 360 will be able to mitigate the tremendous failure rates that have been rumored about on the Internet. The rumor mill has put the failure rate for the current console somewhere between 30 to 50 percent!
So, to sum it all up: warranty on red-ringed consoles extended to three years; a new 360 console, codenamed “Falcon” is on its way; the 90nm chips will be replaced by 65nm chips; console longevity will improve, but technical performance will stay the same…