CNET UK's games console reliability survey: 60 per cent of Xbox 360s have broken

We commissioned a survey of UK gamers to find out how reliable the different consoles have been. The results don't reflect well on Microsoft

Nick Hide Managing copy editor
Nick manages CNET's advice copy desk from Springfield, Virginia. He's worked at CNET since 2005.
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Sixty per cent of Xbox 360s have kicked the red-ringed bucket, compared to 16 per cent of PS3s and just 6 per cent of Wiis, according to our survey on the reliability of games consoles in the UK.

CNET UK commissioned the survey last month -- and the results don't reflect well on the Microsoft console. Some 1,128 UK-based console owners responded, of whom 562 owned Xbox 360s, 473 owned PS3s and 591 had Wiis (some owned more than one).

Of those Xbox owners who have bought their Xbox since January 2008, 34 per cent report that their Xboxes have broken -- still double the lifetime failure rate of the PS3. Microsoft introduced new components in late 2007 and early 2008, when Bill Gates boasted of the Xbox's newfound "incredible reliability". Our survey shows that while the console has improved, it's still far from reaching Gates' goal of being the "most reliable video game box out there".

Only 25 per cent of disappointed 360 owners had owned the console for more than 18 months before it broke, with 47 per cent reporting a failure inside a year. Seventy two per cent returned their Xbox to Microsoft, who extended the 360's warranty to three years after the console's problems became widely known. Fifteen per cent sought their own solution, such as repairing it themselves or giving up and throwing it under a bed. One miserable gamer reported, "I can't afford to get (the Xbox 360) fixed as it is out of warranty, so it sits in the spare room all lonely."

Many 360 owners report the console breaking more than once. Of those whose console has broken at least once, 32 per cent say it has broken twice, and 19 per cent say it has broken three times or more. One person said their 360 "was repaired six times before (being) refunded by Microsoft".

Of those who have bought a 360 in the last two years, only for it to break, 29 per cent say it has broken more than once.

This was a self-selecting survey, so it doesn't represent a random sample of console owners. It's likely that people whose consoles have had problems are more motivated to fill out the survey, but the results are still interesting when you compare the Xbox 360 to its competitors.

The console makers are not in the habit of releasing such information, so this kind of survey is the best guess we have. We think the sample size and spread of console ownership do give it some credence, however, and it tallies with the anecdotal experience of many gamers we've heard from.

The survey did not distinguish between the Xbox 360 Arcade and Elite versions, which are very similar, or the PS3 and PS3 Slim, which has only just been introduced.

A spokesman for Microsoft said, "The vast majority of Xbox 360 owners are having an outstanding experience with their Xbox 360, and they invest in our platform more than any other.

"On July 5, 2007 Microsoft acknowledged an unacceptable number of repairs and took unprecedented steps to take care of all of our customers, providing a three year extended warranty on consoles experiencing the three flashing red lights error. We have continued to make improvements to the console and make customer service a top priority should someone require repair."

Has your console broken? How did you get it fixed -- or is it pining away on top of a wardrobe? Did you receive good customer service? Tell us your experiences in the comments.