The Xbox is a wildly popular gaming system created by Microsoft. One fear does haunt Xbox users, the “Red Ring of Death” or “RRoD.” The power button on the Xbox usually lights up green and green is good. When the three lights in the power button change to red, things are bad and the gaming experience switches to the repair experience. Anyone who has dealt with electronics knows that is no fun. The failure rate for Xbox—the Red Ring of Death Rate—is estimated to be over 20% and some place it much higher. There is an Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death web site with additional information and the claim:
“Realizing that they had released a faulty product, Microsoft eventually released a statement formally announcing the problem and offered a 3-year warranty for this specific fault. The only down side of this was that the console had to be sent back to Microsoft, who would then send a new one “within a few weeks”.
Some criticists have exclaimed that Microsoft have been re-using the faulty parts brought in from Red Ring of Death plagued consoles in the newer “refurbished” consoles, but this is probably just a web myth and there’s little if any credibility to it.
You’re getting a free Xbox 360 console with free shipping so really there’s no real harm in choosing this option. We recommend this option highly as this is a gauranteed, free fix! If you ever do face the Red Ring of Death problem again you can just send it back again!” (http://www.xboxredringofdeath.com/)
So why a sudden surge in Red Ring of Death in early January of 2011? The answer is the Kinect. The Kinect is the new hardware for Xbox that allows the player to be the controlled. The Kinect reads body movements and translates them into action in the computer game. For example, you kick and your player in the game kicks the soccer ball. You throw and your player throws the football. Christmas 2010 saw a huge demand for Kinect from gamers. New Xbox system were being sold with the Kinect or people could buy the Kinect and connect it to their existing Xbox. That is when the trouble began.
Gamers began posting online that the Kinect was causing the Red Ring of Death in their older Xbox models. Here is a sample post:
“Sorry guys, this exact thing happened to me tonight. I have an original XBox 360 console – one of the first ones available when they first came out. It’s been working flawlessly till now. Even got the new user interface update last week. Everything was fine.
Bought a Kinect tonight, plugged it in, got the additional update. Console rebooted and I was able to set up the Kinect. After about 10 minutes, as I was moving back to the XBox hub from the Kinect hub, the console froze – first time ever.
When I rebooted, XBox intro started and froze again on boot up. I got 3 red light RROD. Did it again and got same thing. Did it again and got Error E 79. Unplugged the Kinect, and it booted up just fine.
I should have stopped there, but I didn’t. I got brave and plugged the Kinect back in. It detected it, RE-downloaded the update and rebooted. This time I got back in and was able to start Kinect Adventures. It froze again. Rebooted, same issue. It kept freezing at different points when I tried to start the game.
Last time I tried it, it went back to 3-light RROD and won’t even send a video signal to my TV. Every time I restart now, I get RROD with no video signal.
I’m sorry, I just can’t buy that my 360, which was working flawlessly before, just happened to go bad at the same time that I hooked up the Kinect. That’s just way too much coincidence. The Kinect update DESTROYED my 360, plain and simple” White Warlock (http://forums.xbox.com/35026674/ShowPost.aspx).
Soon stories were appearing on gamer and technology web sites about Kincect and the Red Ring of Death (http://g4tv.com/thefeed/blog/post/709551/Kinect-Causing-Red-Ring-Of-Death.html, http://www.pcworld.com/article/215599/is_kinect_causing_the_red_ring_of_death_in_older_xbox_360s.html, and http://www.informationweek.com/news/windows/microsoft_news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=229000138)
The driver or the coverage seemed to be a BBC story about the problem. Here is the opening of the story:
“Owners of Microsoft’s Xbox gaming console have blamed its new Kinect hands-free controller o f causing their consoles to fail.
Console owners told the BBC that their machines crashed shortly after plugging in Kinect.
Kinect allows gamers to control onscreen action with body movements.
Microsoft has denied any link between Kinect and the three flashing light error signal, known as the “red ring of death”.
Ten-year old Adam Winnifrith told BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours he had only used his Xbox with the Kinect a couple of times before it failed” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12121999).
Microsoft claims people are wrong about the connection. They say the use of the Kinect and the Red Ring of Death is by chance. Microsoft is arguing something else is causing the failure. The stories are very good at presenting Microsoft’s response:
“There is no correlation between the three flashing red lights error and Kinect. Any new instances of the three flashing red lights error are merely coincidental,” (http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2011-01-05-is-kinect-killing-your-xbox-360). Perhaps it is just bad timing. Time will tell.
Questions to Consider
1. How would you rate the effectiveness of the Microsoft response? Justify your rating?
2. What risk is Microsoft running by using this denial response?
3. Do people posting about this story have an ethical obligation to cover both sides? Why or why not?
4. Does it matter that the situation involves a gaming system widely used for its Internet play and the users typically being Internet savvy?
5. What else could Microsoft do to bolster its position in the situation?
6. Would you define this situation as a crisis? Why or why not?
7. What role does social media play in this situation?