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:
- 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.
- Slow the disc rotation speed to 8x. This was ruled against due to much higher loading times.
- 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.