The documentary series Power On: The Xbox Story carried out by Microsoft is giving us numerous details of the vicissitudes that the company’s video games section has gone through. In the fifth chapter, Red Ring of Death, focus on the malfunction affecting millions of Xbox 360 all over the world, and for the first time they officially explain what caused this error.
Leo Del Castillo, a member of the hardware engineering team at Xbox, explains that the dreaded three red lights appear when the connectors on an internal component of the console break due to temperature changes abrupt. The problem was not in itself that the console got too hot, but when it went from hot to cold too often.
Todd Holmdahl, Hardware Manager on Xbox from 1999 to 2014, he specifies: “All these people loved to play video games, so turn this thing on and off [en referencia a la Xbox 360], and when it turned on and off, it produced all kinds of tensions“.
The three red lights error affected millions of players. Microsoft released various Xbox 360 reviews by slightly changing the interior of the machine to mitigate problems. While it was true that some models were more likely than others to suffer the failure, it was not until the launch of Xbox 360 Slim in 2010 (almost five years after the original machine was released) when the problem was effectively addressed.
The error almost made Xbox disappear
Microsoft repaired from 2007 at no cost for the player the Xbox 360 that suffer this error. The situation, as Peter Moore (then head of the Xbox brand) explains, almost destroyed the video game division of the company: “When we looked at the costs of repairs, and the consequent loss of sales, we had a problem of 1,150 million dollars“.
Steve Ballmer, the then CEO of Microsoft, gave the necessary funds to the Xbox division to stay afloat. Albert Penello, former head of marketing at Xbox, says in the documentary that the employees used to joke about mistakes and failures of the past, but what nobody made jokes with the red lights. Still, as part of the brand’s 20th anniversary commemoration, Microsoft is selling posters of the three red lights.