99 Problems and Xbox One

I went through so many Xbox 360’s that I genuinely lost count — I think seven, maybe eight. My last gen hardware nightmare started with my first failed console bricking when downloading an automatic update for Dead Or Alive 4 and then travelled through a harrowing journey of Red Rings of Death and Disc Drives of Doom. I am, perhaps as such, a little over-sensitive to hardware launch issues.

Perhaps I should have learned my lesson and avoided purchasing an Xbox One on day one — and if it wasn’t for the sake of the blog and podcast that may have been more likely. Nevertheless, I find myself once again on the forefront of the console war and while I must stress that I am a very happy Xbone owner — should that read, “a very happy Xbowner”? — I have certainly encountered some issues with my One, there may not be 99 problems, but there sure are some.

Any complicated mass-produced electronic device is liable to have issues, but generally should be within tolerance of what is deemed an acceptable failure rate. Having survived one of the biggest and most expensive product (almost) recalls in history, I would have thought it next to impossible that Xbox would have issues with the build quality — and if the size and number of air vents is anything to judge by, then Xbox are very keen to avoid the possibility of another hardware meltdown. However, console manufacturing could not be delayed much further, no matter how much it was required, to avoid missing Christmas/launch of the PS4. Given the number of 180 decisions since the Xbox Reveal, the goalposts did move further for Xbox than they did for Sony’s manufacturing teams, making early reports of issues a viable concern. However, it could merely be that devices get increasingly complicated with time and further complications means there is simply more that can go wrong.

One of the problems that I faced when having troubles with the 360 was having people naturally assume that it was my fault, that I had in some way been irresponsible with my hardware. When continuing to argue my case with Xbox I also had difficulty proving that this was a widespread problem beyond the six “isolated incidents” that myself and five friends where complaining about. I joined the Xbox.com forums in an attempt to gather more info on the matter and shortly after joined the Sarcastic Gamer forums — which lead me on the path to the BRB blog you are reading these very words on today! If it had not been for my broken 360, I might not be here now and here might not have been here… ever.

I am pleased that I have, in a very small way, some sort of voice in the gaming community. It isn’t often that I use that voice for a call to arms, but I like the thought of having it waiting in the wings, ready to leap into action should it be called upon to stand up for the little voiceless consumer that I found myself to be when left holding yet another 360-shaped paperweight.

There may not be 99 problems, but there seems to be three fairly major concerns – and a number of other issues surrounding these problems – and other concerns that follow on from that. The issues faced by the One do seem to be substantially less than with the commonplace issues with the 360, it could be too early to tell exactly how prevalent the problems are and it can be hard to cut through all the delivery of MS PR BS. At least this time, Xbox are being quick to jump on any issues by providing replacements.


Below are some of the reported problems, some issues I have encountered, some examination of the responses to problems and where appropriate, possible solutions;


Reading Ain’t Right – Disc Read Errors

One Problem: Seemingly the most reported problem so far. A loud “grinding noise” is heard when discs are inserted into the machine and an error message pops up to prompt you to insert an Xbox One game or other suitable disc.

One PRanslation:

The issue is affecting a very small number of Xbox One customers.”

= “We know the exact number but we’re not telling as real numbers are scary!”

We’re working directly with those affected to get a replacement console to them as soon as possible through our advance exchange program.”

= “We don’t want the people affected talking to anyone else but us!”

Advance exchange program” = swapping broken consoles for new ones.

= “Rest assured, we are taking care of our customers.”

“We will kill you if you talk to the press.”

One Solution: If you are getting a “loud grinding noise” then consult a doctor – if your One is experiencing one then best to speak to Xbox Customer Services. go and exchange it directly with your retailer as soon as possible. This is likely to be quicker than dealing with Xbox directly. You will have to pack up your console with everything that came with it, including your codes, pack-in games and pad etc. Phone ahead to make sure replacements are available. This is a known issue so should be okay to deal with.

***UPDATE – My friend has been told that as of last Saturday morning onwards all console returns are being handled directly via Xbox customer services. As he didn’t do this himself, it apparently creates a problem with him receiving any compensation without having to write a letter of complaint. Xbox standard policy is to give away a digital code for a Microsoft Games Studio game when returning replaced consoles.***

Also, as codes are tied to your account you should be able to easily re-download any game you have already downloaded without the need to re-input codes — possible bonus code for you! I have also heard that in some cases Xbox are offering a free game with replacement consoles, but have been unable to confirm this as yet.

Other similar issues – I experienced a worrying moment where for 20 minutes my One console wouldn’t launch a game, quoting error code “0X8027025a” – this was the same for games on Blu-Ray or via the hard drive, so was more than just an example of the disc read error. It also persisted after turning the One off and on again, but then vanished as quickly as it had started and thankfully has yet to show up again.

A friend of mine has already had to replace his console due to it taking far, far too long to install games. By way of example, we started installing a game at roughly the same time. I installed my game started playing and was moving on to my second race by the time he was still sitting at 1% of his install. Left for another forty minutes or so, it made no further progress, then he tried his next game after half an hour or so of trying to install that it was at 2%. Trying his third game, it seemed to be the same story, until 20 minutes it started to make some *slow* progress and eventually got faster and faster until it installed in a little under an 40 minutes. The next day it took him a similar amount of time to install his downloadable version of FIFA 14.

If you are experiencing similar extensively long loading times, then don’t hesitate to return your console to your retailer (noting the additional instructions in the above solution.) My friend was able to have his console swapped out for a new Day One edition console, two days after phoning in to report the issue. This is an issue that is unlikely to solve itself or be corrected by a patch, do not leave this issue unaddressed and at the very least, report your concern to Xbox Customer Services.

***UPDATE – According to Kotaku, even when working “correctly”, installing games on Xbox One takes much, much longer than with similar software on the PS4, by a factor of 10 times or more, with typical install times being ten minutes on Xbox One and under a minute on PS4.***


I Want My One TV – UK TV Dramas

One Problem: TV signal looks soft or judders when plugged in through Xbox One.

One PRanslation: No PR statement yet but as this has been a known technical issue for a few decades it is pretty much a two-fingered response to anyone in the UK (or Europe) who wants to watch an SD signal – am not entirely certain who else will be affected beyond this.

One Solution:  Unlike in the days of PAL (50Hz) and NTSC (60Hz) compatibility problems, HD is standardised worldwide to run at 60Hz, so this shouldn’t be an issue when watching a HD signal. However, not every channel is broadcast in HD and this could be a significant issue with no real solution on the horizon. The softening of text and rapidly moving images, that both friends and I have observed, appears to be a slightly different issue, possibly arising from the differing methods of upscaling by TV’s and the One.

The only real solution to this is to not watch SD channels or to squint – or just not use the One for TV at all. You could return your One and say you will buy another One when one is ready.

Other TV issues – It was always going to be the case that elements such as the electronic programme guide integration would not be immediately available outside of the US, I was previously unaware that this also included a database of channel names for channel switching via voice command. There are other elements such as the integration of fantasy football that was showcased at the Xbox Reveal that will likely be on the way too.

How long these factors remain absent in the UK and Europe remains to be seen. However, I have heard from a (semi) reliable source within Sky that negotiations between Sky and Xbox had not gone well, with discussions put on hold as the parties are too far apart on how to progress. I have been unable to confirm this information officially with anyone at Sky, but very much doubt they would comment on the situation.

Although likely to be added to, there is also a slight lack of apps, with iPlayer being the most noticeable absentee – especially as it was announced today that it will be available at launch on the PS4.

One Solution For All – the general solution for all these extra TV troubles is to wait. Good things come to those who wait and it is likely that integration and apps will follow. Likewise, deals with TV content providers will take time to set up and get running in each different region.



Overpricing of the Underplayed – Price of Digital Content

One Problem: I have, for some time, been an advocate of a price increase for full retail releases. I do find it objectionable that some of the games sold at this higher price then contain micro-transactions. However, for me the overpricing of digital content is the main pricing issue that I had hoped would be addressed at the start of a generation, especially as many predict these will be the last consoles to have disc drives. However, most prices are unattractive and some are bordering on offensive.

The Fighter Within, apparently terrible but I have been told that stores were making it available on launch day at £20 over the counter, is also available online for £40 and is £50 on the Xbox One store. While that is an extreme example as it is a game on sale, it does not read well. Most digital games seem, at best, on par with their physical based cousins with most titles being more expensive to give up your case, disc and right to trade in.

With digital download only games — and by that I mean whatever the hell we are going to call XBLA games now that they don’t have a name. XBoneLA? Xbits? XcludesBoxes? — whatever we now call these games, the pricing of them has taken a leap up that does not seem to have been matched in the quality of titles being offered. I was interested in picking up more than one of the games on offer, but for £16 have found it fairly easy to ignore as that price is well out of my impulse purchase range that has a hard ceiling of £10.

The pricing issue is compounded by varying prices across regions and if anything, seems worse on the PS4. As one commenter noted on Twitter: “FIFA 14 on PS4 is $59.99 on the US PlayStation Store. In the UK one it’s £62.99, which is $102.02. Go on EA, justify an increase of $42.03.”

One PRanslation: EA have already responded to the discrepancies between regions by dropping the price of content on the PS4 overnight, but only by £3, making it still £5 more expensive than on Xbox, where it is already too expensive. The one thing that both console manufacturers would probably like to be able to tell you but can’t, is that six to twelve months into the life of the new consoles — or just as soon as Sony and Xbox decide they have sold a significant number of consoles — that the console manufacturers will likely soon decide that the will of the high street retailer isn’t that important anymore and could start to market (and therefore price) digital software much more aggressively.

One Solution: Don’t buy games digitally. Don’t give in, the longer you hold out, the more reasonable the prices will have to become.


Don’t Try Before You Buy – No One Demos

Xbox 360 was the console that pioneered almost every game having a free demo to try before you buy. That appears to be a thing of the past as none of the games currently available to download have a demo attached. This seems like a backwards step and likely be a further obstacle in my purchasing of digitally downloadable titles.


Need For Online – Online Connectivity Issues

The Xbox One doesn’t require an online connection to play games, except when it does. For Need for Speed Rivals and FIFA 14, you need to remain logged in to EA servers and getting logged out can cause issues. It also makes a bit of mockery of the One’s quick switching, as if you leave your game in a suspended state, say while watching TV, and then return to your game after too much time has elapsed, then you will have been logged out of EA servers, which in the case of FIFA, prevents you from saving your progress.

I have tried to address all the One issues that I currently know about. If you have encountered a different issue or can offer a better answer or solution then please feel free to add details in the comments section below.

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  1. “If you’re having game problems, I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but not an Xbox One.”

    Right, joke out of the way, a few discussion points I’d like to contribute to this: The TV debate. There’s a few lessons to be learned there, in respect of Microsoft, in how they make entertainment an “out-of-the-box” thing on launch rather than being “an American idiot” – promising it over the US then going “Oh…wait, there’s other continents besides the States. Whoops.” For Sony, usability and functionality should be worked on. One significant difference I noted between 360 and PS3 apps of both iPlayer and Youtube is that the 360 versions had a lot more functionality and was way more user-friendly, hands down, and Sony needs to ensure that their system is improved for the PS4.

    Regarding digital content and demos: The disparity between digital content and disc-based access is a formidable one that needs to be looked into. Next week, Gears of War 1 is going to be made available for free as part of Games with Gold on the 360, and it’s sequel is £15 digitally (GoW1 is listed as £20 (Yet another disparity: Why is an older game more expensive?) and GoW3 is £30). Yet I was able to buy the trilogy for the same price recently, which meant that I saved a total of £50. Also, considering the vast library of the 360 and PS3, you would think that offers and discounts would be something they could manage rather well, but when was the last time you heard of a console sale more than you did a Steam Sale?

    Sure, this is competing with the second-hand and PC market, but even then there’s a lot to be said when not only are they refusing to adjust prices as games get older, but they’re also not budging on the games they make free, only offering up a title when they’re several years old. In very stark contrast, several of the last free PS3 games before the new year (Remember Me, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Grid 2, Guacamelee) are all releases from this year. Now while I can criticise Sony for offering different games for different continents (US ends up with Soul Sacrifice this time around, with other titles to be confirmed), at the very least they are making available titles which are recent AND generally recommended, something Microsoft isn’t even close with so far.

    As for the demos: Meh. With the advent of “free games with the system”, it was always going to be unlikely that demos would be in high demand on release window. The last time game demos were relevant on console release was probably the PS2 generation and even then it’s effectively worn out it’s welcome with information and technology expanding as it has. Demos, in their foundation, offer players a limited experience of the game, and chances are that this early in the release window, if people want to buy the game they’d be going 90% on what they’ve already seen or heard about, regardless of sample gameplay (besides, Ryse would’ve killed half it’s interest with it’s E3 showing). It may still be relevant to the PS3/360 generation since the flood of noise from the new generation will drown out most other forms of advertisement, but eventually it will come to a point where demos would be relevant again for the PS4/One generation.

  2. Zombellic

    I generally find the price of digital content outrageous I recently started playing my copy of New Vegas that I put off playing because of the glitches. I had a look at the DLC available for it and like nearly all DLC on Xbox it is still being sold at it’s original price a quick look online and I discovered that I could buy a new copy of the game of the year version that had the game plus all the extra content for less than the price of 3 of the 4 pieces of DLC.

    This is not a problem that the gaming industry invented, I work in the print industry and have an idea how much paper costs and know all about printing presses that cost millions of pounds yet a copy of an Ebook actually costs more than a dead tree book in most cases.

    From what I understand part of the problem is that whilst manufacturers are having their prices squeezed by lower demand and overcapacity to the point that there is almost no profit. Digital content providers like Amazon/iTunes/Sony/Microsoft enjoy monopolies over their devices and choose not to be competitive with each other so they can demand a price from publishers sometimes in excess of the costs to actually manufacture a real world item.

  3. Well said Tim. The only hardware problem I’ve had has been when initially hooking up my One. I dropped the power brick from about 4 inches up and then the console refused to turn on. A friend has had a controller bug thanks to Fifa 14 that has rendered his controller totally useless; it thinks LT, RT and A are held down at all times. He’s had to borrow a controller off another mate to play anything.

    My main issues are feature related. As someone who spends a lot of time in parties while matchmaking the fact that party chat is not turned on by default is extremely annoying and requires a party snap every time.

    Another extremely annoying thing is the auto record that some games do. The biggest offenders so far appear to be Fifa 14 which records a clip every time your keeper makes a save, Battlefield 4 which records every time you rank up and Dead Rising 3 which appears to record every time someone gets a medal in a challenge mission. The only option to disable these appears to be to turn off Game DVR in the settings menu but this also disables the manual record using “Xbox record that”, so isn’t really a viable option.

    Smart match also has issues. Killer Instinct has long search times so I tend to go watch clips or something while searching until I get a notification, however more often than not I get a pop telling me a match is ready but when I go into the game it is still searching.

    This is more of a pet peeve than an issue but they have removed the pop every time someone comes online. This means that every time I want to see who’s online or what they’re doing I have to exit my game and go to the friends section. To compound this issue you can’t snap your friends list which is really annoying as I can snap the activity feed which tells me what people have been doing but not whether they are still online or who else is online. And seeing as how the snap has, for me at least, replaced the mini guide it’s a big deal.

    Last issue I swear.

    We all know you can snap TV while playing a game however you can’t mute one without the other. So if I’m playing CoD or KI while watching football in snap mode then I’ll be able to hear the crowd, commentary etc. of the match mixed in with the sounds of whatever game I’m playing and vice versa.

    I’m sure all of these except perhaps the friend pop will be fixed sooner rather than later but it leads me to think that these console were perhaps rushed out a little fast and weren’t quite ready as most issues people are reporting seem like obvious little things.

  4. @TiamosLoren
    “rather than being “an American idiot” – promising it over the US then going “Oh…wait, there’s other continents besides the States. Whoops.”

    It does create a them-and-us style attitude where it seems everyone outside the US is only a secondary consideration. The absence of iPlayer is baffling and makes the sale of BBC content at a premium price (Doctor Who) look more dodgy than it probably is.

    “when was the last time you heard of a console sale more than you did a Steam Sale?”

    Right now I’m not even asking for it to measure up to Steam but it should at the very least be on par with physical retail and should really be able to better it. Steam took a while to build to the service it became today.

    “As for the demos: Meh. With the advent of “free games with the system”, it was always going to be unlikely that demos would be in high demand on release window. ”

    I would have thought they were even more important in a launch window. I have an update with some more info on the way for this.

    “Amazon/iTunes/Sony/Microsoft enjoy monopolies over their devices and choose not to be competitive with each other so they can demand a price from publishers sometimes in excess of the costs to actually manufacture a real world item.”

    At the risk of delving into a overly boring lengthy socio-political debate, it does seem to be that digital content delivery appears to be further facilitating the taking of more money from the pockets of the lower and middle classes to further line the pockets of those who already have too much = /

    “My main issues are feature related. As someone who spends a lot of time in parties while matchmaking the fact that party chat is not turned on by default is extremely annoying and requires a party snap every time.”

    I have heard a few people talk about issues with Party, especially when trying to start a B4 match, but I haven’t used it much myself yet.

    “We all know you can snap TV while playing a game however you can’t mute one without the other. So if I’m playing CoD or KI while watching football in snap mode then I’ll be able to hear the crowd, commentary etc. of the match mixed in with the sounds of whatever game I’m playing and vice versa.”

    Yep, already witnessed that myself and thought it was a little silly. Hopefully should be patched later though.

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