On November 10th, launch day in the UK, I received and installed Microsoft’s Kinect motion controller. I wrote up my first impressions here. My Xbox was an Elite, bought to replace a launch 360 that had succumbed to the red ring of death – the means by which the console communicates hardware failure – been repaired, and failed again.
I left Kinect attached though I admit it has not been much used. Two and half weeks later, it was the turn of the Elite to display three red lights – at just over three years old, so beyond Microsoft’s extended RROD warranty.
It is probably coincidence, though some are theorising that the Kinect, or a system update associated with it, has tipped a proportion of Xboxes into failure:
I have a theory that MS was (and still is) having latency/response issues with the Kinect hardware and used one of these updates to speed something up, possibly XB360 memory speeds or access times, and some of the older 90nm hardware just can’t take it. There are LOTS of people who owned older systems that melted down immediately after the update/Kinect hookup – far to many to be a coincidence and even MS support admitted to me that repair call volumes were extremely high.
It still seems a stretch to me. There are a lot of Xboxes out there, and in the normal course of events a some of them will happen to fail at the same moment or soon after installing Kinect. The Kinect has its own power supply when connected to consoles older than the 360 Slim which appeared this summer.
Nevertheless, I was stuck with a broken Xbox. Fix or replace? The problem is, the 360 is not a reliable design – maybe the new slim model, but while the Elite is an improvement on the original, it is still, I believe, less reliable than most modern electronics. Although I could get the Elite fixed, I doubt I would get another three years of service from it. In any case, the eject button has also become unreliable, and sometimes the DVD tray has to be pushed up with some force in order to persuade it to work.
Instead, I went out and got 360 Slim, which has a bigger hard drive, integrated wi-fi, quieter running, and no need for the supplementary power supply for Kinect.
I whiled away Sunday afternoon transferring games and data from the old hard drive. I still had the hard drive transfer kit which I had used for the Elite, and it worked fine for the Slim although it tool several hours.
There is another complication when you replace your Xbox. The transfer kit moves any games you have purchased from the Live Marketplace, but not the DRM (Digital Rights Management) which protects them. In consequence, they revert to trial versions unless you are signed in with the account under which they were purchased.
The fix is to transfer the content licenses, a process which involves signing into Xbox Live on the web as well as on the new console. It is a two-stage process. First, the new console is authorized as valid for those content licenses. Second, the actual licenses have to be transferred. You are meant to able to do this second stage from the web, but this did not work for me. I found I had to repeat the download from the Live Marketplace on the 360 itself. When I chose Download Again, the download completed nearly instantly, implying that it merely verified what was already downloaded, but in addition it did some DRM magic which enabled the full games for all users of the console.
So … I got less than two years out of the original Xbox 360 (December 2005), and a little over three years from the Elite. Here’s hoping that the third attempt lasts longer.