Xbox One Issues Demonstrate that Hardware Problems Don’t Pick Sides, and Neither Should You

The Xbox One launched today, and many reports are already surfacing on issues that range from the “green screen of death” to the fact that the console “eats discs.”

It doesn’t really eat discs, mind you: the nasty grinding noise you can hear in quite a few videos already out in the wild is probably the drive’s worm motor slipping, and that doesn’t touch the disk at all. But turning the console into a Disc-eating cannibal is fruit of the usual tendency of the internet to overdramatize, and create flashy names like “green screen of death” of “blue line of death.” They do a much better job at drawing attention than just “frozen screen” or “Blu-ray player issue.”

Of course many are taking reports as the evidence that the Xbox One has some nasty and widespread hardware issue, exactly like they did with the PS4, only to discover afterwards that the problems affected less than 1% of the consoles Sony sold, which is well within industry standards for electronics.

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While the exact diagnosis of the specific hardware issues may differ, the problem is exactly the same: with several hundreds of thousands of units sold at the same time, there are going to be several hundreds of reports of malfunctions emerging at the same time. It’s the natural effect of the combination of the wide reach of a complaint expressed on social media and simple statistics dictating that within a large number of units of any consumer electronic device there will be a proportional number of faulty ones.

Of course the most extreme areas of the PlayStation fanbase (and some media outlets) are now scrambling to make the issue look as serious and widespread as possible, while many just point fingers and laugh. The typical excuse I’m hearing is “Xbox fans did it to us first!” but let’s not hide behind the proverbial finger here. If Xbox One launched first and its issues were discovered earlier, we would have had exactly the same situation. That’s the nature of the internet beast.

Maybe it’s time for everyone to stop picking sides on this kind of issue, and cease the futile attempts to demonstrate that the other camp has it worse. The ones that have it worse are those that got a faulty console, and it is sad to see that a large percentage of those that are most vocal on the internet, and most ready to point fingers, experienced no issue at all. Luckily the faulty consoles will be replaced or repaired on both sides, and people will be able to finally move on to playing games. That’s why we have warranties.

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The only thing proven by the malfunctions on the Xbox side is that hardware and manufacturing issues don’t pick sides, and every electronic device has a failure rate. The PS4 has one, the Xbox One has one, the iPad has one, PCs have one as well. It doesn’t matter what devices you’re looking at, some are going to malfunction because they’re all manufactured in less than perfect conditions (and perfect conditions don’t exist), and often by interns or by other human beings (who have a failure rate as well) tired after a long shift at the workbench.

Mind you, decades of automated production in several fields demonstrated that even robots can make “mistakes,” as they are influenced by external and unpredictable circumstances to which they are less prepared to react.

This is the nature of the consumer electronics market, and something that we’ll never shake off. Whenever we open the box of a new console, there will always be that momentary thrill in which we’ll wonder if it’ll really turn on. Unfortunately there will always be people for which that thrill will be followed by disappointment because the console won’t work.

It’s disappointing, annoying, and frustrating when it happens to us, but it’s the poison we’ve picked for ourselves when we made of technology our hobby. Luckily now the launch of both consoles is in the past, so maybe we can just move on to have fun with the games, shall we?

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