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Is it really wise to buy a next-gen console at launch?

Since the Xbox One has been released on 22nd November 2013 we've seen some truly strange problems like bluray drives not reading discs, strange sounds, spontanous shutdowns and PC-style interface slowdowns. Even Sony has been plagued with problems on the PlayStation 4, whether from tearing analog joysticks or non-booting consoles. Of course, Microsoft and Sony have said that they were dealing on a one on one basis with customers to resolve their issues. I give them the benefit of the doubt here, mainly because the issues are being addressed - and customers are receiving free games too. The sceptic in me however feels like this is deja vu. See - I remember the Red Rings of Death (RROD).


Microsoft plagued by launch problems

It's not the first time Microsoft has had to fix a bad reputation knock. In 2007, Peter Moore - then Vice President of the Interactive Entertainment Business leaked information regarding the unreliability of the first Xbox 360 hardware, citing inadequate testing as the root cause of many issues on Xenon-based units (Xenon was the codename for the original motherboards on the consoles released in 2006). There was an overall failure rate of 23% by the end of 2009, while the PlayStation 3 was at a lower 10% and the Wii showing a miniscule 2.7%. A year later one in six units were failing due to various issues. Warranties for the first generation of the Xbox 360 were increased to three years. It was only in 2010, three years later, that the "slimmer" units were manufactured and sold with one year warranties. These were redesigned for much more improved reliability over their predecessors. The rate of failure in the Xbox 360 "slim" was predictably much lower than the first.

I myself had an out of warranty graphics chipset failure in my first-generation Xbox 360. Despite the fact that my console was at the time within warranty, I was told to fork out R500 to repair the fault and have the unit refurbished due the fact that only RROD failures were covered. Had my console failed 6 months earlier that entire repair would've been done free of charge. Ten points go to the person who guesses which model of the Xbox 360 I bought afterward. Having had to buy a new console because of a manufucturer fault not covered within limited warranty was tough, I'll tell you that much.


The $1-billion hit

I get that manufacturers have to run their repairs on their launch products within a time limit. There are many reasons for it too - limited production lifecycles on launch units, scarcity of old components in favour of newer ones and obviously the controlling of costs over the long term. As a company, you're not going to want to pay for a faulty product indefinitely. In addition to that, components are always changing as production moves on in time. That's why limited windows to free repairs are applied. Microsoft took a $1-billion hit on the Xbox 360 because of failures starting in 2007. Customers are therefore encouraged to be aware and communicate with their product manufacturer and retailers in time to get their issues resolved before it becomes their responsibility.

A rush to release will cost dearly

The best metric to use in measuring a product's viability is not the manufacturer's reputation, but the long-term benchmark of its durability over time - this includes software and hardware support. While we don't have the fault numbers on the now current-generation of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles I'm willing to bet that there are still more than a few issues to be ironed out on these systems, a fact further emphasised by the fact that both Sony and Microsoft rushed to release their systems in time for the Christmas rush this year. 

Closing thoughts

We gamers always want to have the latest pieces of kit, and often end up paying premium prices for whatever that is when it comes out too. My personal advice is to wait at least a year or longer to decide which next-gen gaming platform to go for. If anything a cautious approach to these expensive purchases will give you a better idea which system is likely to suit you better long-term, and you're going to know which is more reliable too.

With that said, I'll leave the forum open to you readers. Are you going to buy a next-gen console on release or are you willing to wait it out till there's more certainty that your hard-earned money will be better spent later? Or will many of you be buying PCs or Wii U's instead?

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

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