In a court filing that was opened to the public yesterday, Microsoft revealed that it knew long ago that its Xbox 360 video game console was damaging game discs by carving deep scratches into them. But the company declined to fix the issue after investigating several possible solutions.
The filing came to light as part of a class action lawsuit on behalf of all Xbox 360 owners that claims the Xbox 360 is defective because it can easily scratch game discs, making them unusable. According to the documents, Microsoft knew about the problem well before the consoles release in 2006.
"This is information that we as a team, optical disc drive team, knew about," Microsoft program manager Hiroo Umeno told the court. "When we first discovered the problem in September or October \[2005\], when we got a first report of disc movement, we knew this is what's causing the problem."
When the Xbox 360 console launched in November 2006, Microsoft immediately began getting complaints about disc scratching, so the company sent teams of employees out to retain locations to investigate. It decided that the scratches were caused when the console was reoriented, or moved slightly.
\[This isn't the only time when a 360 can scratch a game disc, however. In my own experience--and I've lost almost a dozen game discs to this problem, by the way--the Xbox 360 can arbitrarily scratch a disc even when the console is not moved. --Paul\]
Microsoft looked at three options for fixing the problem but all were judged to be too expensive. Eventually, it simply offered to replace Microsoft-published games only at a cost of $20 per disc. As a result, I advise that Xbox 360 users purchase games at retail locations like Best Buy that offer game replacement warranties.
Microsoft claims that disc scratching is not unique to the Xbox 360, though electronics experts hired by plaintiffs in the case claim that competitors like the PlayStation 3 and Wii do not suffer from this problem at all.