Microsoft Accused of Ignoring Disc-Scratching Problem


Microsoft may have turned a blind eye to the Xbox 360’s nasty habit of scratching discs, according to documents filed in a suit against the company.

Microsoft is facing a class action suit claiming that the Xbox 360, if moved slightly or nudged while spinning a disc, can lead to the disc being irreparably scratched. Now, a document from the motion is alleging that Microsoft may have been aware of the problem several months before the console even launched.

“This is … information that we as a team, optical disc drive team, knew about,” Hiroo Umeno, a Microsoft program manager, is quoted as saying. “When we first discovered the problem in September or October [2005], when we got a first report of disc movement, we knew this is what’s causing the problem.”

The document then alleges that Microsoft conducted extensive in-store surveying to investigate the problem, and that they confirmed that a nudge or tilt of the console would cause the disc to hit the console’s optical pickup, thus scratching the discs.

After further investigation, the optical disc team conceived of three solutions to the problem: increasing the magnetic field of the disc holder, slowing the disc drive down or to install bumpers. Microsoft supposedly rejected all three ideas, either for lack of cost-effectiveness or for conflicting with the current design and efficiency of the system as it was at the time. Instead, Microsoft created a disc replacement policy and stuck a warning label on the console advising users to remove discs before moving or tilting their machines.

Microsoft responded to the accusations, claiming that the problem was not specific to the 360. “Xbox 360 is designed so that it will not damage a game disc as long as the console is not moved while the disc is spinning,” a Microsoft spokesman told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “Too much movement of any game console, not just Xbox 360, can cause scratches on a disc. That’s why we put a warning on the face of the disc tray, which the user has to physically remove before the initial use of the system. We also have warnings posted online and in hard copy instruction manuals.”

Microsoft also stated that the 55,000 complaints it has received this year related to the disc-scratching issue represented only a small percentage of the userbase.

“While we have had some users contact us with concerns about scratched discs, it is less than one-half of 1% of the total Xbox 360 user base,” Microsoft said.

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