Last week, Microsoft announced that they are taking a $1 billion charge in order to extend the warranty on all XBOX 360 consoles. Seemed like a nice thing to do considering all of the problems. Of course, I wasn’t very concerned with the announcement because I had already been through my own XBOX 360 replacement hell (having had 2 XBOX 360s die in the first year).

This morning, I suddenly began to care a lot more about the new extended warranty program.

As I was drinking my morning coffee and checking RSS feeds, I read that MSFT and Red Octane released 3 new downloadable tracks for “Guitar Hero II.” After slinging my coffee cup and laptop aside, I ran downstairs, paid my $6.25 and downloaded the new tracks. I figured I could squeeze in a few songs before heading into the office.

After working through 3/4 of “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” by Judas Priest, the console completely froze up. I had to power the console down and restart. During the boot screen, the console froze again. After cycling the power one more time, I got back into Guitar Hero II and the rocking commenced… until about 1/3 of the way through the song. The console froze again. After cycling the power, I got the dreaded 3 red lights on the front of the console.

I immediately got on the phone and called 1-800-4-My-XBOX. That’s when I encountered the super-chipper automated assistant Max who was thrilled to be helping me with my problem. Unfortunately after about 3 minutes of saying (and repeating) the voice prompts and removing the 360’s hard drive, Max realized that he couldn’t help me with my problem. He told me to say “Agent” in order to connect with a customer service rep. After saying “Agent,” Max informed me that I would need to call back during normal business hours (I called at 8:35 am EST and the call center opens at 9 am EST). Nice! Guess Max didn’t think to mention that a little bit earlier in the call?

After waiting for the call center to open, I finally got a hold of customer service. Because I was calling about my third failed console, they said they were going to escalate my issue. Other than waiting while the rep, who was very polite, spoke to her manager for a second, it was just like the other calls I made to them.

The rep ran through the basic questions to make sure I was using the console in the proper way and then said that I was eligible for a free repair. Because this would be my fourth console in less than 2 years, I asked if there wasn’t some sort of upgrade that I could get, to an Elite perhaps, to prevent from having to call them back in 8 months and get another console.

What the rep said next, if true, is pretty amazing. She told me that, while inconvenient now, getting my console repaired was actually better than getting a new console from the store. She claims that MSFT has figured out the problem with the 360 and the repair they do now makes it like “a 2007 model” console. Couldn’t believe she was saying that; however, I wouldn’t spend a penny on an XBOX 360 right now just on the off-chance that it is true (and given the fact that I will on my 4th one).
After thinking my problem was solved, I got more interesting (and upsetting) news. Instead of getting the pre-paid shipping box overnighted to me and then getting my repaired console in 10 business days (as they did on the other two repairs), I was told that the shipping box would arrive in 3-5 business days and that my console would be gone for… 4 to 6 weeks!!! I couldn’t believe it. I even asked her if she meant days (since my issue was “escalated”). Unfortunately, she did say “weeks.” She also added that they have been flooded with dead consoles since the announcement on July 5th of the new warranty program.

So, I’ll be spending more time playing the Wii for the next 4-6 weeks. I will also be considering picking up “Guitar Hero III” for the Wii this fall instead of for the XBOX 360.

[UPDATE: 8/7/2007] Turn around time ended up being around 27 days. More details here.

Anyone else have XBOX 360 repair horror stories to share? Post them as a comment.