Video Game Hardware Launch Problems Aren’t a Big Deal

It's inevitable, but is it a big issue?

A multi-billion dollar corporation decides to spend a huge investment in resources to create a new video game console. It pumps billions of dollars into research and development, hires hundreds of staff to craft the intricate details from the way the LED looks to the inner workings of the custom computer architecture. They invest hundreds of millions of dollars into a global marketing campaign, secure a release date and launch their new console.

All because they knew you would be angry when a small hiccup happens on day one.

No, video game companies don’t actually hate their customers. And when new products launch, you can guarantee that it’s highly unlikely that it would be the perfect piece of kit all the marketing and media experts would have you believe.

It’s easy to point fingers at the most recent hiccups too, like PlayStation 4 which launched over the weekend in North America. There have been some teething problems: the HDMI port in some units is faulty, some consoles have been “bricked” for some reason and who could forget the dreaded day one update, hampering nerds’ ability to play Killzone at midnight?

Launch console broken? It's not a big problem

Yes, it’s a pity when things go wrong. But it’s not really a big deal. And to top it off, it’s rarely the fault of the manufacturer for were it not for us customers’ insistence on rock bottom prices, these console makers need not go to cheaper, crappier computer factories for assembly.

Video game hardware launch problems just aren’t a big deal. There’s a certain amount of slack one can be expected to give up as a so-called “early adopter”. When you rush out tomorrow and pick up a $10,000 Ultra High Definition TV, you know full well that you’re paying about $8,000 more than you would if you waited three years. You’re also aware that today there’s next to zero UHD content available, and that once the format has penetrated the global market, your TV will be obsolete.

It is precisely the same for video game consoles. Today, there are only a small handful of PlayStation 4 titles to pick up, and most of those are ports of games already out on PlayStation 3. One year from now, that library is going to balloon to hundreds of titles. Today, the operating software on PlayStation 4 may be buggy. 12 months from now, it will have new features we can’t even comprehend today.

We’ve seen this with Nintendo’s latest home console, Wii U. No one is going to pretend that the months following launch of that console were less than stellar. Wii U was slow to load what little games it had. Today, almost a year later, the console is speedy, has a vast library of great titles and new features are being rolled out all the time.

Older consoles also experience teething issues. The Xbox 360 overheated when it first launched, leading to a major recall. PlayStation 3 suffered from similar issues and Wii had a flimsy wrist strap which caused some players to damage their televisions.

Launch console broken? It's not a big problem

It’s so easy to get caught up in the drama of a few bad stories following a video game consoles’ launch. After all, it’s a change of pace from the 12 months of constant hype in the media and in advertising. Suddenly, everything we’ve come to expect has gone up in smoke and we’re left with a device that has clearly been designed by humans, and assembled by less-paid humans.

The problem isn’t isolated to video game consoles either. I mentioned earlier the risks of being an early adopter when it comes to televisions, but the same can be said for phones. We all remember the original iPhone that launched without an “app ecosystem”. Only Apple were allowed to make apps for iPhone. Today, that notion is laughable as billions of application flood the device like a plague.

There are some products out there that unapologetically update their hardware, without bothering to warn the customer at all. Home theatre amplifiers come to mind here, as the instruction manual may make reference to a port that no longer exists, or completely ignore the seemingly bonus HDMI ports that were included since the original run of the hardware.

Yet, none of this is a big deal. If anything it’s good. Sure, hardware glitches are annoying when you first take the device out of the box, but it’s comforting to know that you’ve purchased a product that has the full weight of a multi-billion dollar company behind it, funnelling resources into it’s post-launch development to turn it into a better product as the months roll on.

Of course, it’s okay to complain about these things but reading into the doom and gloom that inevitably spews onto the internet moments after release (or days before) doesn’t do anyone justice. Video game consoles are here to stay, despite day one hiccups. And unless your Xbox One suddenly transforms into some kind of semi-biological superbot from beyond the moon, it’s safe to assume that all these issues are covered under the original warranty.

Do you feel ripped off when experiencing video game console teething issues?

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  • MachoViper

    Great article, puts a launch of such a complex piece of hardware into perspective.