The Red Ring of Death is one of the most well-known blunders in the videogame industry. It’s essentially the Xbox 360 equivalent of the Blue Screen of Death and seeing either one signifies you’re in serious trouble. “Three flashing red lights imply that the Xbox 360 system or its power source has a hardware problem,” according to the Xbox support site. But that doesn’t begin to describe the magnitude of the problem, which was nothing short of disastrous.
However, it appears that the whole ordeal is now far enough in the past that Microsoft can make it into a historical touchstone—almost a beloved memory, really—and profit from it: a Red Ring of Death “premium print” is now available for $25 from the Xbox Gear Shop. The slightly glossy, fingerprint-resistant print is being released to “celebrate” the publication of a six-part Xbox console documentary, one of which covers the Red Ring of Death era.
In 2008, VentureBeat released an in-depth history of the RRoD for those who missed out on all the fun—after all, it was 15 years ago. The short version is that Microsoft was aware of issues with the Xbox 360 but did not postpone its release because it did not want to be outdone by Sony and Nintendo. The result: high failure rates and over $1 billion in warranty costs, which were made more difficult by the fact that many of the issues were latent, meaning they wouldn’t show up until the machines had been in use for a time.
Xbox Red Ring of Death Poster
Despite the magnitude of the situation, it was resolved quite swiftly. According to the VentureBeat history, Robbie Bach, the former president of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division, “consumer reaction data” did not show unusual levels of outrage about the situation.
“It speaks to the fact that they love their games and Xbox Live,” Bach said. “Does it frustrate them? Yes. On the other hand, they know we’re taking care of them. People have a certain amount of respect for that.”
It’s a cheeky move, as my British friends would say—very cheeky, indeed. The Red Ring of Death was a full-fledged goat rodeo, and while Microsoft has the financial resources to sustain such a financial cost, recovering from the public relations nightmare is a different story. But charging folks $25 to hang a large reminder of Xbox’s most shameful moment on their wall? That’s next-level stuff—and a move that will almost certainly be well-received.