Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reliability Blues

Is it just my bad luck, or as videogame consoles have become more sophisticated have they also become less reliable?

I currently have a Wii that's dropping pixels when fogging effects are employed; matrices of incorrectly colored, flickering pixels show up onscreen. I ran into this when my Wii was fairly new and under warranty, and Nintendo replaced it completely; I thought perhaps my original machine had a faulty graphics chip, but it appears that two years later my replacement machine is failing in the same way.

I also have an XBox 360 that recently has shown me the "three red lights" twice, and while it will fire up and play if I am persistent, it freezes fairly often. The graphics are showing noise in the red spectrum and serious banding in shaded areas, as though the color depth were not coming through completely. So it looks like it's also due for a trip to the shop. I'm not sure if it will qualify for the 3-year warranty extension Microsoft introduced a few years back -- though it's less than 3 years old, this may be a genuine hardware failure and not the design flaw usually indicated by the ring of death.

And it's not just the most recent systems -- I have in the past had a Sony PS2 fail, requiring replacement. And I have replaced my original Playstation and Dreamcast along the way also, due to hardware failures that were cheaper to replace than repair.

Granted, I probably give my systems more of a workout than some. But my older, cartridge-based consoles from the Atari 2600 through the Jaguar are all still in fine working order. There's something to be said for solid-state technology; moving parts, however well-engineered, tend to fail eventually.


  1. I don't old Nintendo became very crotchety near the end. I usually had to spend a few minutes finessing the cartridges into place before I could play.

    My Xbox had problems from close the start, though.

  2. I would have to agree that the NES was a bit of a crank -- the blowing/cleaning/reseating cycle does get old. But at least it could be made to work with some patience and practice -- wrestling with a poorly-mating cartridge slot design is a pain, but no amount of wrestling can solve a weak solder joint or failed graphics subsystem.

    Incidentally, there's a fairly rare top-loading NES that came along near the end of its life cycle -- it's reputedly much more reliable, with a similar slot design to the SNES.