Xbox 360 Failure Rate? Do the Math

Now that Microsoft has done the right thing about the Xbox 360’s rampant hardware problems, one key question remains:

What is the failure rate for the system? MS won’t say. The Seattle Times quotes MS games boss Robbie Bach (left):

Suffice it to say that with a billion-dollar charge and the focus we’re putting on this that it’s a meaningful number.

While normal console failures are apparently in the sub-5% range, some reports have estimated that 360’s throw the red rings at a rate as high as 33%.

Here are the numbers that are known. The Times (and other sites) are reporting that MS has shipped 11.6 million Xbox 360’s to date, but the failure rate remains a mystery. The addition of a three-year warranty for the rings of death failure is expected to cost MS a cool billion dollars, so:

(11,600,000 * X) * Y = 1,000,0000,000

…where 11.6m is the number of systems shipped; X is the failure rate and Y is the total cost to MS per replaced unit. This works out to:


Now, math is not especially GP’s strong suit, but if each repair (Y) costs MS $100, that translates to a staggering failure rate of 86%.

At $200, the failure rate is 43%. At $300 it’s 29%. At $400, it’s 22%

At the high end, the $400 repair cost on a 22% failure rate is very unlikely. Since that is the current system’s MSRP, why bother to repair?  They could just send you a new 360 to replace your dead one.

On the other end, the 86% scenario seems pretty extreme (perhaps not if you’re one of the unfortunates who have lost multiple 360’s to the dreaded rings).

There is a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff we can’t know here. But, based on the numbers, a failure rate between 29% and 43% would not be unreasonable. So maybe those 33% reports aren’t so far off the mark, after all.


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