Xbox 360 faces the Supreme Court in attempt to dodge class-action lawsuit over disc eating

Microsoft heads to the Supreme Court again to dispute a class action lawsuit involving faulty disc drives.

The Xbox 360, despite having hordes of loyal fans, was a terribly flawed system. Prone to overheating, the "Red Ring of Death", piracy, and various other hardware issues, it comes as a surprise that the system didn't go the way of the Dreamcast. However, a lesser known issue was that the Xbox 360 was known for scratching discs if the console was moved in the slightest while in use. Nine years after the Xbox 360 launch, Microsoft is headed back into court to avoid a class action lawsuit for the second time.

In 2007, a class action lawsuit was opened against Microsoft -- headed by the Microsoft Hardware Program Manager Hiroo Umeno -- that claimed the manufacturer was well aware of the damage that could be caused to discs when players re-positioned their consoles. The motion stated the following:

"This is ... information that we as a team, optical disc drive team, knew about. When we first discovered the problem in September or October, when we got a first report of disc movement, we knew this is what’s causing the problem."

Hiroo Umeno, Testimony

Microsoft allegedly rejected three possible solutions to the issue prior to the console's release:

  1. Increase the magnetic force of the disc holder to keep discs in place. Microsoft reportedly rejected this due to concerns that it would affect the disc tray mechanism.
  2. Slow the disc rotation speed to 8x. This was ruled against due to much higher loading times.
  3. Install soft patches called "bumpers" that are found in many consumer optical disc drives. Microsoft refused this option as well, claiming that it was too expensive to install them at $0.50 per console.

As a result of their inaction, over 55,000 complaints from consumers popped up by April 2008. The company offered a replacement plan for the discs only which only replaced Microsoft games, and only after a $20 fee.

Nine years later, the Supreme Court is preparing to hear Microsoft's pleas of innocence for the second time. According to a report by the Associated Press, the justices agreed on Friday to hear out an appeal from Microsoft, arguing that the individual claims by the plaintiffs had previously been thrown out. They reported that only 0.4% of 80 million owners who actually owned an Xbox 360 made complaints over disc scratching. As such, they argue that the damages are a result of consumer misuse, not a product defect.

As of January 15th, 2016, we are still awaiting the results of the Supreme Court's hearing. Should the court rule in the plaintiffs' favor, it will likely be another 5 years or more before we hear more news on this again.

Published Jan. 17th 2016
View Comments
  • Engela Snyman
    Featured Contributor
    0.4 percent doesn't sound too much but it is still 320 000 owners, which is quite a lot when you think about it. But I do think there is more to this. It could be that a few of them were duds but newer version are clearly better. Perhaps a study needs to be made to see around what time the complaints started and compare that with sales to see if newer consoles have the same issue?

    Or it could just be owners who keep moving the console :P
  • Pierre Fouquet
    Associate Editor
    Wait... this is only an issue if you move your console while the disk is spinning... my PS2 has more scratching disk related issues than my 360...

    What is this crap? So consoles overheat but no lawsuit... but a disk gets scratched because people can't keep their consoles still and there's a lawsuit ?

    Anyone remember when PSN went down for 3 months? Yer... no lawsuit then... grumble grumble grumble.. (oh and the issues with Steam not having refunds, and a host of other issues on all platforms... no lawsuit on any of those... but a bloody disk get's slightly scuffed...)

    I'm not angry... just vastly annoyed.
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    I don't study American law, so I don't think I could adequately explain why this isn't a thing. Although, to say that the discs got slightly scuffed is an understatement. The consoles would quite literally eat your discs if things got shifted while in operation to the point where they were unusable.

    That said, my experience so far has stated that in America you can sue someone for stubbing your toe, provided that they didn't have a sign that said "Careful you don't stub your toe". I mean, look at the "Caution Hot" symbol on McDonalds coffee that was added after someone who burned themselves on a hot cup of coffee.
  • Pierre Fouquet
    Associate Editor
    It just seems like a misuse issue... not a legal one. It's the person's fault, not the consoles.
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    What part of "lawsuit for burning self on hot McDonalds coffee" did we miss here? :P
  • Pierre Fouquet
    Associate Editor
    Yer, true... haha! I mean you see coffee and you think boiling hot, will burn. Not... oh it must be cold let's shower with it.

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