One thing’s for certain—as our technology has become increasingly more complex (and powerful!) the chances of it “failing” have increased as well. Moreover, there’s an increased chance that you’re not going to know how to fix it when it does happen. The best that we can do is cross our fingers, take good care of our tech, and hope for the best. If you own an Xbox One, PlayStation 4, or Wii U, you’ve probably heard the horror stories involving console failure rates. It’s possible that those rumors might even have dissuaded you from buying a console in the first place. Rest assured, some of the rumor is an exaggeration, but wherever technology is involved, there will always be some rate of failure.
Today, we’re going to talk about home console failure rates in 2016 and 2017. Hopefully, we can assuage some fears. If nothing else, we’ll point you towards the gaming experience with the lowest rate of failure across the board. There are a lot of great reasons to invest in the current console generation that’s on the market, just as there are some real reasons to avoid certain products.
Feature this—a young boy in the 1990s, popping open the hinged, plastic lid of his boxy, old Nintendo Entertainment System. He blows a lungful of air into the console, attempting to lodge free any debris that might be lingering in the case. Next, he turns his attention to one of the games—Super Mario Bros. Finding the access slot on the bottom of the cartridge (which is easily the size of two decks of playing cards, side-by-side) he blows into that, too. There’s a sense of expertise at play, here. He’s done this before!
The cartridge is fitted to the console, the large, gaudy “Power” switched is pressed in, and the console boots up…success! The game is playable, and the graphics aren’t a fragmented mess, spilled across the screen.
What you’ve just witnessed is the most rudimentary, classic, iconic console “repair” process that we’ve seen in video game history. Anyone who was around during the NES generation is probably familiar with this process. They’re also familiar with the fact that it just doesn’t work anymore, even though it never truly worked that well to begin with. The point I’m trying to illustrate is that our game console technology has become much more advanced. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are all but miniature computers, equipped with lightning-quick processors and dedicated graphics processing units. They have their own essential cooling systems and a hardware framework that’s unique to each of them. The same goes for the Wii U, even though it’s comparatively lower-powered.
“Failure rate” is a major concern for many consumers. They don’t want to drop hundreds of dollars on a new console when it has a reputation for breaking down. Thankfully, none of the machines in this console generation are reputed for having high failure rates. They truly haven’t, since the Xbox 360’s “red ring of death” fiasco captured everyone’s attention.
The Current Console Generation: A Diagnosis
Below, we’re going to take a cursory glance at the current state of gaming consoles. The PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Wii U are currently at the head of the pack, but even as soon as the next month, that will be changing—at least for Nintendo!
Perhaps more than any other system of this console generation, the PlayStation 4 is in a great spot. It’s the fastest and widest-selling console on the market, and there are more great games available for it than you could play in the span of two years. Many of these can also be found on the Xbox One (which is a good thing for consumers) but others remain PS4 exclusive titles, like Bloodborne and Uncharted 4.
It’s a powerful system, too. This is evidenced by the recent release of PlayStation VR (Virtual Reality), a completely immersive VR experience that you can enjoy with just your PS4. It isn’t comparable to what you’d get with the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive—the PS4 is still severely underpowered when compared to $1000+ gaming PCs. But it’s still great, and it’s a strong concept for what Sony has in store. 2016 also so the release of the PS4 Pro. It’s the same as the original model, apart from the fact that it packs upgraded hardware specs that allow for better graphics.
Here’s the thing about failure rates—until they reach an “epidemic” level of reputation, they’re mostly just rumors. Sometimes those rumors are grounded in truth; more often, they’re the result of the loudest voices in the room being those who’ve experienced the rare instance of hardware failure.
Does that mean that the PlayStation 4 is a perfect machine? Absolutely not. We’ve seen instances of overheating, faulty hardware components, and also random, seemingly untraceable system death. In these very rare circumstances, a console might simply die, for no rhyme or reason. The closest estimation we have for PS4 failure rates have come from disparate, yet reputable, sources, placing it somewhere just below 1%, as of the last tally.
Much like Sony’s PlayStation 4, the Xbox One has been living well at the front of the “console wars.” Microsoft’s most recent hardware hasn’t had quite the sales explosion that the PS4 has, but it packs comparable power and access to many of the same games. Thus, most users are forced to choose between one or the other, primarily due to budget. These consoles are expensive!
Microsoft has made some bold moves in the gaming industry, too. As of now, all first-party Microsoft games released for the Xbox One will also play on Windows PCs—as long as they’re packing enough power to do so. This “cross-play” feature is unique to Microsoft’s platforms, and it has helped to shape the Xbox One into a more compelling package.
Though we don’t know the exact failure rate for the Xbox One, we do know that Microsoft’s console has been under particularly brutal scrutiny. Their previous system, the Xbox 360, had an enormous failure rate that all but tarnished the console’s reputation for the entire duration of its lifespan. The “red ring of death” hardware failure specter was still looming over the Xbox One, but we’re pleased to say that this new system has held up extraordinarily well.
As with the PlayStation 4, there have certainly been hardware failures, but they haven’t happened due to any repeating reason, or in any number exceptional enough for it to affect the console’s reputation.
Nintendo Wii U
The Wii U is…complicated. In truth, that’s probably the very best word to use when describing the entirety of this console’s lifespan. It isn’t a bad piece of hardware and the fact that we haven’t seen many reports of hardware failure testify to this. Many of the games available on it are a lot of fun, and the peripheral setup is unique. No other console manufacturers thought to use a true touchscreen as part of their controller input.
However, the Wii U remains the worst selling Nintendo console, in the company’s history. That’s a black mark, to be sure, but we would urge our readers not to peer too much into that lone statistic. If you ask skeptics, they’ll denounce the Wii U. If you talk to people who’ve owned a Wii U for a year or more, many of them will tell you about the fun they’re having with the console! Take this disparate information for what you will, but the fact remains that it hasn’t kept up with the offerings of Sony and Microsoft.
Ironically, the most pronounced “failure rate” for Nintendo’s most recent home console is its failure to take off, literally. Though there is a handful of good games on the system, the Wii U has been Nintendo’s worst-selling console to date, barely making a drop in the pond compared to Sony’s and Microsoft’s offerings.
Just the same as above, we’re not going to see any published “failure rate” for a console that’s currently doing its best to sell as well as it can. However, hardware failure is not something that’s attached to the Wii U brand. Instead, the glaring frustration that stands out most is the lack of games that people want to play on it. Apart from Nintendo’s first-party titles—which are actually quite good—the system hasn’t been widely embraced by the game development community.
It also bears mentioning that Nintendo is debuting a new console in only a month’s time. The Nintendo Switch is a hybrid console and portable experience, that you can play at home on your TV and also out with you, on the go. It’s shaping up to be a wonderful experience, and the Switch already has an army of third-party development studios backing it. Since this is something that the Wii U never had, it’s a reason to be excited!
There’s a reason that company’s don’t release precise failure rates to the public; it’s bad for business, and admission to any rate of failure is hard to spin as a good thing. Especially when there’s no obligation to release such numbers! Therefore, all that we truly have to go on are corporate leaks (which are rare) and the aggregate feedback of thousands of consumers (which can be unreliable, at best.) However, because the failure rates of the Xbox One, PS4, and Wii U aren’t particularly widespread talking points, we can safely assume that they’re comparatively quite low in 2016 and 2017. This is especially true when you compare them to the console generations that preceded them, right?