The Red Ring of Death

The Red Ring of Death

Photo by Andrew Burgess – CC licensed

22nd November 2005 – the day that the XBox 360 launched in the UK, and the day that I queued up at 7am in the morning to pick up my lovely new Premium 360.

Fast forward nearly three years and it was still going strong. Having given me hundreds and hundreds of hours of gaming pleasure, as well as acting as our main DVD player. It had a camera, an HD-DVD drive, two wireless controllers and a couple of headsets. Despite watching my friend’s boxes die a death along the way, my trusty white box kept on going.

Time, I thought, to treat it to an update. The New XBox Experience was a comprehensive UI update launched by Microsoft on the 19th November. As I happened to be working at home that day I turned the ‘box on and…

My time had come – the dreaded Red Ring of Death timed perfectly to mess up my day.

But, in fact, it was timed almost perfectly. Under pressure due to a huge number of faulty consoles, Microsoft had extended the warranty period of the console to three years. Those who noted the previously stated dates will work out that mine failed a grand total of three days before it’s third birthday!

So, with a call to Microsoft to arrange a repair (very simple, they even handled the fact that I’d since moved from the UK to Ireland with no problem) I was happy, if slightly disappointed. Nevertheless, seen as we were without a DVD player now it seemed like and excellent time to pick up a Sony BDP-S350 Blu-Ray player (about which I will probably blog later)

The only problem now was that UPS had not yet bothered to come and pick up the broken XBox, which was probably a good thing as I’ve not yet bothered to get a box to put it in either. However, figuring that I’d likely not see one back any time before Christmas, I wondered about the possibility of buying a replacement.

The only issue being that I didn’t really want to pay for one. However, a quick scout around the house for tradeable items and I ended up taking the following down to the local Game store:

  • A slim PS2 which hasn’t been turned on for over a year
  • Singstar, two mics and a couple of extra Singstar discs for the PS2
  • Buzz the music game for the PS2
  • A couple of other PS2 games
  • Guitar Hero 2 for XBox (with guitar)
  • A variety of XBox 360 games I’ve finished or given up on, including: COD4, PGR3&4, Test Drive Unlimited, Fight Night 3 and a couple of others

That lot, plus €5 on my Game reward card saw me pick up a brand new XBox 360 Arcade, with the game Mirror’s Edge for the princely sum of €1.78. Not bad!

Sticking my existing hard disk drive onto the Arcade was simple and turning it on, it started to update itself with the NXE. Two minutes later and I was in business!

Unfortunately, the new ‘box isn’t one of the latest Jasper motherboard designs with a cooler running GPU, but beggars can’t be choosers, and I have no idea when those will start appearing in Ireland (or indeed where) However, the way I see it is that the Premium will either have it’s MoBo replaced, or the whole box repaired, so when that eventually comes back it’s just a case of deciding which one to keep and which one to eBay!

What’s more important is that I now have an XBox back, and a new Blu-Ray player to boot 🙂

Xbox Live and moving country – don’t

Whilst the kids in Redmond have done a great job in turning XBox Live into the best console online gaming community, the backroom staff who support it in terms of billing need a kick up the proverbial.

Since moving to Ireland from the UK I’ve not got around to updating my XBox Live account. It is registered against my UK credit card, which gets used whenever my membership gets renewed or I buy stuff from the Marketplace. My old card has expired and in any case I no longer want to use a UK card for such purposes. Hence, yesterday I attempted to update my details on XBox Live. Go to change of address, enter new details, but there is nowhere to change your country. Hmm. Try on the web at billing.microsoft.com – again you can edit everything but the country. Phone up XBox Live support and speak to a person who puts me on hold for 5 minutes to come back and tell me that it can’t be done. Proclaim surprise that nobody designing the billing system ever considered that people may move (but then again I expect it was designed by and primarily for North Americans) Ask to speak to a supervisor: “Yes sir, please take down this reference number and give it to the person after I transfer you” Erm, so you can’t even flow my details along with my call, thought that was a basic piece of call-center functionality these days. Whilst on hold for 10 minutes for the supervisor I do some googling and (unsurprisingly) find loads of blog entries about the same problem. Figure that it probably isn’t worth spending any more money on hold to the UK (or at least the virtual UK if you know what I mean) to speak to the supervisor who may never pick up.

It appears that the only way to legitimately move countries with XBox live is to cancel your account and start a new one. The problem here Bill is that I’ve invested time and effort into building up a social community with my current gamertag (which by the way I’ve had since XBox Live was in beta five years ago and I don’t appear to have received any of the free marketplace points you were meant to give me on the anniversary…) and not insignificant time registering my progress on games in the form of gamerpoints. I’m not going to throw all that away. So, it appears that I now have to rely on buying pre-paid vouchers whenever I am in the UK so that I have a stock of marketplace points available should I actually want to buy anything from your service. Oh, and when it comes around to time to renew my Gold subscription I’ll have to make sure I have a voucher for that as well.

Now you are launching things like the video store, encouraging me to spend more money with you. Would be nice if you could actually make it easy for me. Sorry, I thought this was the globalised 21st Century. Obviously I was wrong.

Too many games to play

I’m amazed by the sheer volume and quality of games coming out recently, or due in the run-up to Christmas. Having owned an XBox 360 from day one I don’t remember any period in which so many quality titles have been published or are due soon. After effectively ignoring the 360 for about four months whilst we moved over to Dublin and then had a wedding to organise, I’ve been firing it up over the past week or so and began to start reading the likes of Eurogamer to catch up with what’s going on.

Some of the motivation to switch the ‘Box on came from a couple of my work colleagues discovering Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero 2. This culminated in a session last Friday where we plugged in two guitar controllers for a bit of a rock-duel. I started to play GH2 before we moved over, but finally got around to completing it on medium level in preparation. Another game which has been gathering dust was Forza 2. I’ve just not got into this as much as I was expecting though, mainly because there’s just too much else to play.

The weekend saw me buy Bioshock (10/10 on Eurogamer) and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2008 (8/10) So far I’ve played about 2 hours of Bioshock which is thoroughly awesome in terms of graphics, sound, atmosphere and just about everything else. It carries the mark of any good game in that it gets terribly hard to put down. I’ve dabbled with golf games before, but the fact that I’ve started to play the game for real has caused me to get more into Tiger this time around. The way the gameplay is structured means you no longer arbitrarily allocate points to particular skills but rather your golfer improves in an organic fashion the more you play. This makes it seem more realistic and means you can’t just go in and quickly build up a player capable of winning the majors. Another simply awesome thing about the game is the “game face” functionality, but I’ll blog about that in more detail later.

Of course, midnight tonight sees the arrival of Halo 3 (another 10/10 Eurogamer review, put that into the context that they rather controversially gave the original Halo 8/10) I’ll probably hold off of getting it until I have Bioshock out of the way. I’ve never got into multiplayer FPS games so have only really played Halo for the single player campaign.

Then there’s the list of other stuff either out and attracting my attention or on the way:

  • Skate – a 9/10 review and finally a Tony Hawk beater? I’m a big fan of THPS games, so am seriously tempted by this
  • Project Gotham Racing 4 – Again, huge fan of the series and this one will be a no-brainer purchase
  • FIFA 2008 and Pro Evo 2008 – I’ve never really got into console footy games, but they are still both major releases
  • Guitar Hero 3 – The leaked tracklist looks awesome. Knights of Cydonia anyone?
  • Mass Effect – If it is anywhere near as good as Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic then I’m sold

Then on top of this there are the games which don’t particularly tickle my fancy but which will still be important and popular releases, such as Sega Rally, Half Life 2: Episode 2, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty 4 and probably more that I’m not aware of.

Have gamers ever had it so good? Even those foolhardy PS3 owners will be able to play some of these 😉