Red Ring Redux

For the second time in two years, I have a dead Xbox 360. The machine gave me the Red Ring of Death on Sunday after crashing while running DeadSpace. The machine simply froze, and when I powered it down and powered it back again, I was greated with the ominous glowing red rings.

Normally, this would be inconvenient by manageable: Microsoft extended the manufacturer’s warranty on the 360 to three years, and my Xbox is still covered. Unfortunately, this month isn’t anything resembling normal. I’ve got three game reviews looming between late October and late November, and don’t have time to wait for Microsoft to fix my box.

The first thing I tried was stopping by Best Buy; I got the extended warranty for my first Xbox 360, and when it died I was able to walk into their store and get a replacement. Unfortunately, the warranty was from the original date of purchase and wasn’t extended when I got the replacement.

Plan B was calling Microsoft to get a replacement under warranty. As folks on Twitter know, my first attempt call to Xbox Support ended badly. After two hours of being on hold Monday night, I gave up and decided to call again on Tuesday (thumbs up to Microsoft for the excellent Halo soundtrack hold music, but thumbs down for replaying “Rock Anthem for Saving the World” about a few dozen times).

Calling again Tuesday morning, I was able to get through in 5 minutes, run through the trouble-shooting gauntlet, and confirm that yep, it really was red ringing. Microsoft emailed me a UPS label, and the next day I had it in the mail.

But none of this solved my fundamental problem, which was I had a game to review now that’s due Monday morning. I ain’t got time to bleed electrons while my Xbox wings its way back Microsoft.

This led to a mad quest (and about a dozen tweets) in which I tried to find some place, any place, that would rent me an Xbox 360.

I started with Blockbuster, but it turns out that they stopped renting consoles years ago because of repair bills; the damn things kept coming back broken (I think this was all consoles, not just 360s).  Many folks on twitter suggested this option, but after checking with a friend’s fiancee — who is a manager at a Blockbuster — it seems this is a company wide policy.

My friend Erilar checked out a Hollywood Video for me, but that came up empty as well.

Searching the Web for rental options, I came across Rent-a-Center, which allegedly had Xbox 360s for rent. The first two I called didn’t have any available because, ahem, they were out for repairs. The third rented them and had them in stock. After confirming the $19.95 weekly rental rate, I drove out there with my toddler in tow, hopeful that I had my solution.

Unfortunately, it turns out that while $19.95 was the weekly rate, you had to rent it for a month to get that rate. Shorter term rental options weren’t available; well, technically I think I could get a three week rental for $60, but I think that was under some stupid rent-to-own option. Either way I only needed the Xbox for a week or two until my review was done and (hopefully) my own Xbox was on its way back home. Besides, $60-$80 is about 1/3 of what I’d need for a new “Arcade” edition Xbox, which runs $200 but has no hard drive. I’d rather have spent the extra money and had a backup then burned it on a rental.

Balking at the cost, NeutronLad and I walked out forlorn … and ready to start begging. I posted to my gaming group’s forums and e-mailed folks at work asking if I could borrow a 360 for a few days.

Fortunately, they came through with offers of three different Xboxes I can use, and the crisis has been averted. I’m going to be something of an Xbox vagabond for the next two weeks as I alternate between different 360s, but thankfully my 360’s external hard drive will work on any Xbox.

Yes, my friends rock.

And as for my Xbox? It’s on its way back home … along with a bunch of others. When I stopped at the shipping store, the guy behind the counter proved to be all too familiar with the process. It seems that he can get up to five people a day stopping into ship back their Xboxes.

Living in a small Pennsylvania city surrounded by suburbs, I found this number astounding. Four to five Xboxes a day is a huge failure rate, especially this long after the product has been on the market. I can only imagine just how much this is all costing Microsoft, and I can only hope that they’ve figured out how to fix it in the new boxes.

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