What do you mean, you don't want an Xbox 360?

Yes, I play Xbox, and I enjoy it. I'm a gamer. And when the Xbox 360 was first announced, I was excited to see what it had to offer. And now that it's released, I think it's a great system, and I think I would really enjoy it.

But I'm not getting one.

And no, it's not (just) because they've been next to impossible to find. I had someone at work offer me one, in fact. He knew someone who had a premium system and a wireless controller, unopened, that he wanted to sell (I forget the details as to why). I thanked him for the offer, but turned him down.

It's a lot of money to spend on a game system. As it is, I didn't expect to have a video game system in the house at all. Why would I spend money on a piece of hardware whose sole purpose is to play games, especially when I have a computer that can not only play games, but do useful things as well. Then my father offered to buy me an Xbox. Well, it wasn't my money, so I said alright. And I do enjoy having it. So my position on having a game console has changed somewhat. But, it's still a non-insignificant amount of money, and if I'm going to spend that money, I am going to make sure it's a worthwhile expenditure.

So here are the things that are holding me back.

The first thing was my experience with my original Xbox. It's a 1.0, and I had a hardware problem with it, namely, the infamous DVD drive. After half a year, it was near unto unplayable. At that point, Microsoft hadn't done their "silent recall", so they wanted $100 to fix it. The first price drop had already occurred, and I wasn't about to pay half the cost of a new console to fix the existing one. So I lived with it for a while, until I started looking on the internet a few months later and discovered mine was not an isolated issue. But at that point, the "silent recall" was in effect. I called Microsoft, fully preparing to yell and threaten, but they immediately offered to fix it for free. And after that, it worked pretty well -- for a few more months. When it started to go again, I again went to the internet for answers, and I found a drive that could be used to replace the drive in the Xbox (with a little soldering and reflashing). I replaced it myself, and it's worked great ever since.

Anyway, I have my doubts as to how "end-user hackable" the 360 is, and, if that happens again, I'll be completely at the mercy of the service centers. (Which also means an extended warranty would be a prudent purchase, but that just adds to the price, and it means it's that much more that I have to consider spending the money.)

As it turns out, there have been reports of hardware issues with the 1.0 360 units. While there do seem to be a low number of issues for the number of units sold, and Microsoft has been fixing them as they come up, it does make me wonder what slightly longer-term issues have yet to be discovered.

The next major issue is backwards compatibility. My entertainment center is built in to the wall of the family room. Essentially, the television and its stand occupy a cubbyhole in the wall. The stand contains the surround sound unit (5-disc DVD player, component inputs, 5.1 surround sound) and the Xbox 1, and that's about all the room there is. A 360 wouldn't fit in there without removing the X1. So, putting a 360 there means no longer having an X1. There is only one other TV in the house, and that is in the master bedroom -- not a place to put the family game unit. So, as far as I'm concerned, buying a 360 replaces the X1.

Now, I have a decent number of X1 games. Many of these, I still play. Many more, my kids play. As of this writing, only about 40% of my games will function on the 360, and that number is only slightly up since the release of the console (very few of the games added in December were games I own). There are still many games that are currently played that would simply not work anymore.

On the same line is the concept of peripherals. We have a collection of controllers, wired and wireless, and several steering wheels. Also, we just got the kids a Dance Dance Revolution game for Christmas, which included two dance mats. This game just doesn't make sense to be played on anything else, so even if the software was compatible, the lack of hardware would make the game still useless. (I don't have that mech game with the huge custom controller, but I would imagine someone who did would be even more upset about this.) They could've very easily made the old controllers compatible, even with a simple converter (the X1's ports were simply USB ports with a custom shape -- the modding community has had X1-to-USB adapters available for a while now). But instead, they made the 360 require controllers to have a licensed chip in them, which none of the X1 controllers (Microsoft or third-party) do. Their reasons for doing this could be debated, but the applicable result is that all this extra hardware I have and enjoy using would be completely useless; and the DDR game I just bought for the kids would be completely unplayable.

Even the games that are on the BC list have had problems. I've seen a few reports of Halo 2 having pretty bad video problems (stretching, "ghost images" overlaying the screen). There have been some reports of video and sound issues with this and other games, as well as Xbox Live annoyances. One guy with whom I play online will get the occasional "could not load the map" message, even on the original stock maps. Why put up with this to play games that, on "lesser" hardware, work just as well or better?

There are other little things, too. The X1 Live puck is nice, as it has mute and volume controls right there, yet you can plug in any headset you want. The new controller has a stock headset with mute/volume controls, but it's hard-wired to the headset. If you plug in your own, you plug it straight into the controller, without the piece that has the mute & volume. [Granted, I wouldn't mind tackling that as my next "mod", soldering a standard headphone jack to the 360 puck.]

Yes, I'm missing out on stuff. I've heard the praises of people who have been enjoying the new games (when they can play and aren't hitting random game crashes and lockups) and the Live Marketplace (hmm, another way to spend more money) and streaming music & video across their network to their HDTV. But I'm still having fun with what I have. Right now, the benefits don't outweigh the costs. No 360 for me yet.

All that said, I do hope that the issues get all worked out, or at least become less important. When that happens, I will head out to the store, pick up an Xbox 360 Premium system off the shelf, bring it home, and replace the X1 with a shiny new 360. Just not now.

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