For Microsoft, the astronomical Xbox 360 defect rates and the infamous red rings of death are sensitive issues. The problems cost the company over $1 billion in warranty replacement and was largely attributed to the rush to be the first console to launch this seventh console generation. Thus, when Rob Delaware, a game tester working for Microsoft, decided to talk publicly about the behind-the-scenes perspective on the defects, he found himself without a job.
Delaware, frustrated by the ongoing Xbox 360 problems, decidedly to openly discuss his experience with the console's problems from behind the scenes. But his choice came at a cost, as Delaware was fired by Microsoft last Wednesday. The 29-year-old man was working as a game tester for Microsoft in Seattle, employed through temp agency Excell Data.
Working closely with Dean Takahashi at VentureBeat, Delaware walked through the sordid history of the Xbox 360 defects. The warranty replacement policy, which sees refurbished units sent out to those with failed consoles, is fingered as largely the result of Microsoft's decision to hurriedly get the Xbox 360 onto the market. "Delaware, who as of this writing works at Microsoft as a game tester, agreed to go on the record for this story because he said he believes passionately in his work, which involved painstakingly playing games over and over again in order to uncover bugs," wrote Takahashi.
For Delaware, this likely came as no surprise. He was breaking company policy by dishing the details on the Xbox 360 defects. In addition to losing his job, though, Delaware may also face civil charges from both VMC, the test grouping within Microsoft, and Microsoft itself. But Delaware doesn't seem fazed by the possibility. "I don't regret it," he told Takahashi. "I'll fight it. If they want to come after me, bring it on."
Even with Delaware's resolve, though, the bigger issues remains. "This kind of witch hunt mentality is wrong-headed," wrote Takahashi in response to Delaware's termination. "People like Delaware are more useful hunting down bugs and fixing problems. I think the company really should apply their energy in different directions, like making sure that consumers are treated right. The firing disappoints me, and I wish Delaware well."
A spokesperson for Microsoft has said that the company does not comment on personnel-related issues.
Microsoft has long tried to brush these problems under the rug in spite of the fact that the Xbox 360 defect rates are no great secret. And even with hardware revisions and the introduction of new SKUs, the consoles continue to break sporadically. This, of course, affects different users differently. You'll often hear anecdotal stories of those who've had their Xbox 360 units since launch back in November 2005 along with those on their eleventh and twelfth consoles.
But with the console thriving, it seems that the defect problem will be one that goes down in quiet infamy. Perhaps one day, after the dust has settled on this generation, Microsoft itself will be more forthcoming on the issues, so that people like Delaware need not worry about criticizing an obviously flawed product not for the sake of downplaying it, but for the sake of making the product that much better.Posted on