Following months of consumer complaints about failing Xbox 360 units, Microsoft announced Thursday that the company will extend the warranty on every Xbox 360 sold since the system launched and offer full repairs for the most widely reported console malfunction, the so-called "red ring of death. The company indicated that the new policy will cost Microsoft $1.05-1.15 billion.
"The majority of Xbox 360 owners are having a great experience with their console and have from day one. But, this problem has caused frustration for some of our customers and for that, we sincerely apologize," Microsoft's President of Entertainment and Devices, Robbie Bach, said in a statement.
The "red ring of death" involves a complete crash of the Xbox 360 characterized by three curved flashing red lights on the front of the console. It's such a common malady that the Internet is rife with reports of 360 owners who have had six, seven, even 11 Xbox 360's red-ringed.
While the company statement indicated that the new policy is a "result of what Microsoft views as an unacceptable number of repairs to Xbox 360 consoles," no indication was given as to how widespread the problem has been.
Company representatives say no single factor triggers the red-ring failures. "Because the Xbox 360 is one of the most complex consumer electronics devices ever created, there are a variety of scenarios that can cause a general hardware failure," Denise Gocke, a spokesperson for Microsoft public-relations firm Edelman told MTV News. "Only the indicator (the three flashing red lights) is always the same. To address these issues, we have already made improvements to the Xbox 360 console."
For months fans have not only complained online about failing 360s, they have brainstormed do-it-yourself remedies. The alternative would require them to send their consoles back to Microsoft for a repaired or replaced unit. Some found success moving their 360 to a cooler place. Others claimed that wrapping the console in a towel somehow helped things. Such solutions harkened back to the survival strategies of owners of the original PlayStation, who often had to run their console upside down to keep the disc drive working.
Asked what current 360 owners should to increase the odds that their machine won't red-ring, Gocke said, "Most people won't have this problem, but if you do, contact us immediately at Xbox.com and we'll fix the problem free of charge for three years."
The new warranty extends to all 360s purchased since the console launched, but only covers problems that trigger the system-failed three red rings. Microsoft will reimburse any console owners who have had to already pay for repairs to red-ringed machines.
The warranty extension is the console's second in less than a year. In late December, Microsoft upped the initial 90 day warranty to a full year.
Microsoft's good-news/bad-news announcement of the extended warranty comes less than a week before the Electronics Entertainment Expo Media & Business Summit, the new incarnation of the U.S.'s biggest annual video game trade show. Microsoft will kick off the event Tuesday with an evening press conference that will outline the big games and ideas set to fuel the next year of the Xbox 360.