We’ve all had that time at some point when our console or hand held throws a tantrum and refuses to turn out, hold itself together or run the software to its best ability.
So, what happens when this occurs? Well, of course you send it into the manufacturer to get a repair… or do you? Our inquest into the support and repair options provided by the big three gaming companies — Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony — prove that you may want to avoid doing that, and you may be better off heading to a third party.
For this investigation, we got in contact with each of the three companies, and made up a ‘problem’ that we had with one of their products. The Kinect for Microsoft (I actually had a legitimate problem with my Kinect), the 3DS for Nintendo and the PS3 for Sony. For the role play we told each of the companies a problem that we had with their product, said that the product was out of the warranty period and went from there. Let’s take a look at what happened.
Note: This is by no means an intensive review of all these companies procedures and practises. It’s possible that we caught these guys on a good/bad day. It’s also important to point out that your circumstances may be different or more complex. Before calling any of these places to redeem a warranty, it’s handy to have your receipt as proof of purchase.
First up, we pushed Microsoft’s buttons with our Kinect problem. This was a legitimate problem where the Kinect was not starting up properly.
After searching through Microsoft’s FAQs (which were quite comprehensive, but did not solve the problem), we decided to get in contact with Microsoft. They have three options for getting in contact with them and getting help; the ambassador program (where you speak to a fellow customer who knows what they’re talking about who’s not actually trained by Microsoft), an online chat, and you can ‘request a phone call’.
We started up the latter two. After waiting 30 minutes for the online chat (when we were told that there was less than a minute till we got put through), we gave up. The phone call, however, came instantaneously and after a short 1 minute waiting period, we were put through.
We explained the problem to Microsoft, and that the Kinect was purchased over a year ago (at the same time as the console), rendering it no longer under warranty. Usually, you’d need to pay $90+ to get it fixed, but Microsoft, as part of their I-don’t-know-the-name policy, gave out free postage to post the Kinect to them and get a new one sent out, for free. Bonus! The operator was also very kind and polite.
There was, however, a down side to the Microsoft support. On the phone, we were told that we would receive a box in the post that we put the Kinect in and send it back. This didn’t come for a while, and then we were told that we needed to ship it to them by ourselves, and that we do not receive a box. It seemed as if the support crew were a bit disconnected and were not kept ‘updated’. We sent the item out and are meant to receive a new one in 7 to 10 days (including weekends).
Now, we didn’t have a legitimate problem with our 3DS (maybe that’s why Nintendo’s support is not up-to-scratch, because they don’t need it), so we made one up. Our scenario was that the 3DS kept blacking out, but would turn back on afterwards.
So, we called up support. After being on hold for a little while (about 10 minutes), we got given an operator (who was apparently located in Sydney). The connection wasn’t the best, I could just hear him, and he could just hear me, but it was do-able, there was no cutting out. Despite communication still being do-able, the operator ‘terminated our call’.
So, we called back… to get the same operator (who now kept our call going). We were told that if the blacking out does not ruin our gameplay experience that we should not send it in for repair (especially if it is out of warranty). Why? Well after warranty, Nintendo won’t give you free repair, unlike Microsoft, and will have you pay postage and for any parts replaced. Furthermore, if you do not ‘claim’ the item within 90 days, it will be thrown out.
If your item is in warranty, you send it in (after paying for postage) and they find that the problem is on your end (whether this be your internet connection or that you dropped it), they will charge you $25, or dispose of your product after 90 days if you do not pay that. Talk about Nazi!
We decided to just explain that we will deal with the problem, and hung up. The operator was not very nice anyway.
So, Sony was a bit better than Nintendo. Our problem with the PS3 was that it continually froze, but we could still play (similar to our 3DS problem). Sony has a pretty comprehensive FAQ to look at before you ask for repair, so be sure to do that.
Sony also had better service over Nintendo (in regards to how ‘nice’ the operator was). Sony explained that there is a 1 year warranty on the products and after this period we need to pay for replacement parts.
We will also be charged for postage and for the time spent checking the console (which varied depending on the problem you had). If, however, the problem had started occurring slightly before your warranty ran up, they would repair it for free (they have no way of telling if it had begun occurring earlier or not, they just took your word for it). You would still be charged postage.
So, out of the three, Microsoft probably had the best service with the best repair options, followed by Sony, and dragging a long way behind, Nintendo. With Nintendo, you’re taking a risk that the problem may be your fault, and that you will be charged, or lose your product.
Regardless of your system, if your product is out of warranty, we suggest taking it to a reliable third party repair service. It will probably be faster and cheaper if it turns out that you’re at fault.
Let us know of your support and repair experiences in the comments below.