Friday, August 03, 2007

Microsoft´s Shane Kim and Chris Lewis interviewed

Here are exclusive interviews with Microsoft executives Shane Kim and Chris Lewis regarding ´Halo 3´ and the Xbox360´s hardware faults.

First up is a brief interview with Shane Kim, corporate vice president of Microsoft Game Studios, recorded at the company´s recent European ´Halo 3´ preview event in Amsterdam.

Secondly, here is an interview I conducted via mail with Chris Lewis, vice president, EMEA, Entertainment & Devices Division.

Reports about an unacceptable number of hardware defects with the Xbox360 are as old as the console itself. Why was Microsoft in denial for so long and owed up to the problems so late? Why did Microsoft maintain for so long that the rate of failure was around three percent?

This is a complicated problem. It took us a while through testing to isolate certain things and determine patterns, as more consoles entered the marketplace and we were able to identify trends as statistically relevant. As our understanding of the hardware issues has increased through on-going testing, we want to make sure we address them and stand by our product. We have already made improvements to the Xbox 360 console and we’re committed to our customers’ long-term experience with the Xbox 360

Microsoft is not commenting even on the general type of hardware defects encountered and the respective solutions they are implementing to avoid them. That seems to me an extremely bad service to the consumer. Because, obviously, there are hardware changes being made to at least some Xbox360 units during repair (like the extra heatsink) and there is no transparency whatsoever for a new consumer, which consoles sitting on a store shelf are prone to fail and which ones may have been fixed. Why do you continue to allow consumers to purchase a product that you yourself admit has an unacceptable failure rate?

Based on our ongoing testing, we have identified a complex set of factors and interactions that can cause general hardware failures indicated by a three flashing red lights error message on the console. We cannot go into detail, but I can tell you that we have already made improvements to the console to address the situation – the replacement of component parts and other improvements are a usual practice in the consumer electronics industry. We continuously work to improve the cost, manufacturability, design and performance of the console, and updating components and moving to advanced silicon technologies is commonplace within the industry in achieving that.

The majority of our Xbox 360 owners report having a terrific experience with their consoles – we have taken the action to extend the warranty because we stand behind our products and are taking responsibility to ensure a great customer experience for all of our customers.

GamePro agrees and comments: „The company's unwillingness to fully disclose what's causing the problem undermines the solution. Gamers don't want to risk $300-400 at the chance to play games on 360, they want to make sure it can and will play games for years to come.“

If not by transparency regarding the hardware defects and their respective solutions, how are you dealing with this problem? Do you not think that the recent 60% drop in Xbox360 sales can be blamed on the lack of transparency?

The warranty extension was driven by customer feedback and our top-to-bottom review of our policies. This is the right thing to do to ensure a great consumer experience and to give consumers confidence that we are standing behind our products over the long term. The majority of Xbox owners continue to have a great time with their consoles.

To clarify the above point, please state whether the changes to the hardware are being made as repairs only or whether Microsoft has introduced them to the regular production lines. If not, why not? If so, and in the absence of being able to identify the fixed consoles from the old units, buying an Xbox360 these days becomes a big gamble.

As mentioned before, the replacement of component parts and other improvements are a usual practice in the consumer electronics industry. We continuously work to improve the cost, manufacturability, design and performance of the console. Updating components and moving to advanced silicon technologies is commonplace within the industry in achieving that.

Will the 65nm hardware architecture resolve the problems entirely? When will this version go up on store shelves? Is this upcoming revision the real reason why you refuse to inform consumers about the models currently being produced, so you don´t have to implement changes to the production lines twice?

It is not related to the warranty extension. We are taking these actions because we believe it is the right thing to do to reassure customers that we are standing behind our product and will take care of customers as appropriate should they experience problems with their consoles. We don’t disclose our silicon technology roadmap for competitive reasons.

Microsoft is being hit with at least four lawsuits regarding another alleged hardware fault: disc scratching. How widespread is this problem according to your information? Will this issue snowball the same way the "red ring of death" did? If not, how can you be sure of that, seeing the scope of that early problem only became apparent to you recently?

Unfortunately we cannot comment on current litigation matters. While we’ve received some calls on issues with discs being scratched, and have worked with the affected individuals to find a solution, that hasn’t been a driver of significant call volume from our customers. The majority of Xbox 360 owners continue to have a great experience with their consoles.

Footage source: RTL II
Thanks to: Felix


Anonymous said...

wow, falafelkid. way to stick it to the man! very well played, sir.

-"superfan" tactics.

Falafelkid said...

Hey Tactics.

way to stick it to the man! very well played, sir.

Thanks. I guess you are talking about Chris Lewis, who I believe I never met in person.

I do have to say that Shane Kim is probably the most sympathetic executive in console gaming right now. He is polite, attentive, honest and always answers your questions...

He never fails to plug his products, of course. But he never ever compromises his genuine and authentic style. What a great guy.

Anonymous said...

yeah, i meant the chris lewis interview. it's nice to see somebody not sucking dick and sugar-coating questions for a change. great job :)

i want an xbox360 BAD. but. i will *not* buy one until i'm absolutely sure that i won't be getting a defective one. i don't care about a 3 year warranty, i just want one that WORKS AS IT SHOULD. i concur: i'm sure that i'm not the only one who feels this way.

-"superfan" tactics.

SuperUser said...

Yeah superfan tactics, at least i feel the same!

Grandmaster B said...

I'd rather a PS3 myself. MS can shove theirs up their you know what.

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