Wednesday, March 26, 2008

More on PS3 Hardware Failures: AICN's Moriarty Hit By BDL

Earlier I posted about how the PS3 is no less susceptible to hardware problems. The issue was dubbed the 'BDL' (Blu-Ray Disc Laser problem) over on Pinoyxbox by the multi-console users in the community. You'd find a lot more information about this by searching for error 80010514 and 80029906.

That said, I saw this post on AICN from Moriarty....apparently he also got hit by the BDL problem. He had the console repaired by Sony, and when he got his replacement, he was hit by another problem: he encountered an issue while updating his PS3, causing his system to get bricked. So now he's had two broken PS3s in a row, and the system has lost his recommendation as a blu-ray player system of choice for consumers:

"Regarding Moriarty’s Awesome Non-Stop Blu-Ray Coverage... Or Lack Thereof!

Dear Sony...

Y’know, some days it doesn’t pay to be a movie fan.

I’ve done tons of DVD coverage over the years here at AICN, and it’s funny... I’ve heard some people actually say, “But you guys don’t really cover DVD at Ain’t It Cool, do you?” I know I’ve been writing reviews for DVD since 1999 at least. And I’ve been a home video freak for as long as there’s been home video. I was a first generation video nerd in the ‘70s.

When I got my Blu-Ray player last November, I fell in love fast with the format and with my PS3, my first Blu-Ray player, and writing about that experience kicked off not only one of the best talkbacks I can remember recently, but my own experimentation with the format.

A couple of studios added me to their reviewer lists for HD content, and Blu-Ray discs started to arrive. I reviewed several, and then about six weeks ago, I stopped suddenly and completely.

Didn’t mean to. It’s just that my PS3 shit the bed.

Here’s the thing... I’ve been positively evangelical about the PS3 since I got mine. I know I’ve talked at least four friends into buying the machine, and I’ve repeatedly discussed my evolving admiration for just how adaptable and versatile machine it seemed to be. There are some sound issues that still need to be resolved, and some interactivity that is still being refined, but the constant stream of firmware updates (something I recall being horrified by when I first heard about them) is one of the things I really like about the machine.

Or at least, I did until today.

I digress. Point is, the system worked. There was no indication of the problem. Then I turned it off and went to bed.

When I turned it on the next day, it came on like normal. The same menu screen as always. The remote worked fine. I was going to watch THE ROCK in Blu-Ray, and when I put the disc in, I saw the familiar blue “loading” circle in the right corner of the screen, like a soothing cigarette burn. Only... it didn’t go away. It just kept loading. And loading. And loading.

I thought maybe it was the disc. I’d just opened it. Just gotten it in the mail a few days earlier. Maybe it was a defective disc. I took it out, looked at the surface of it. It looked fine. So I tried it again. And the second time, it did the same thing. Loading. Loading. Loading.

So it’s the disc. Obviously. After all, I’d just watched a disc the night before. I took LIFE OF BRIAN out of the case, put it in to double-check.

Loading. Loading. Loading. Loading.

Oh, shit. I tried CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. RATATOUILLE. PLANET EARTH. Nothing was working. So I decided I’d try one of the games. I’d just picked up ASSASSIN’S CREED and THE ORANGE BOX, and I’d been playing HALF-LIFE 2, chipping away at it a little bit at a time. I put in the game... and same thing. Loading. Loading. Loading. Loading.

Every other feature of the PS3 was still working. I could play any of the music I had stored in the hard-drive, look at the photos I’d put in. The trailers I’d downloaded from the Playstation Store were still there, and they still played perfectly. I used the wireless connection to download the DEVIL MAY CRY 4 demo, and sure enough, it played. Because there’s no disc in use, it played fine. But THE ORANGE BOX? It wouldn’t recognize it.

The machine had simply stopped recognizing discs of any sort. Seems problematic for a device that is built to play discs, eh?

So I did my reading online about similar examples of this issue, and it seemed like it happened infrequently. It wasn’t like the Xbox 360’s RROD. It wasn’t a widespread gripe or a nonstop problem. It was an occasional thing where it seemed like the laser just stopped working for some reason, and you would have to replace the whole machine in every case.

Great. I contacted Sony, and I asked them to send me the free shipping materials for me to send the machine back to them.

And then today, the UPS guy showed up, as he is wont to do here at the Labs. Toshi likes to sign for the packages, and today, there was one that looked a heck of a lot like the box I’d sent off to Sony a few weeks back.

Yep. Inside, my brand-new PS3. I cleared the shelf space for it in the family room, plugged it in, hooked up the HDMI cable, then plugged the controller in so it could charge as I set the machine up.

Oddly, it was in “Factory/Repair mode,” which didn’t really make sense to me. That’s not how it was the first time I set up a machine. I was told that it would not be my original machine that I got back, but instead, it would be a brand-new one. That’s why I had to copy all my saved game info and other settings to a USB card when I sent the old one in.

But this machine had obviously been on at some point. I moved through the PS3 menu screen...

... and just did the bare minimum set-up to get started. I wanted to try some discs.

More importantly, I wanted to install the latest system firmware update. And pretty quickly, the PS3 told me I needed to do an update, and directed me to the System Update screen.

I did what it told me to, after setting up the wireless connection so it could access the internet, and it went through the update process.

The last step in the process is for the system to automatically restart.

Which it did.

And when it came back on, instead of the familiar onscreen menu you see above, it was just a red screen with the alarming phrase “A SERIOUS ERROR HAS OCCURRED, PLEASE CONTACT SUPPORT” written in a couple of dozen languages.

Bricked. Fried. Dead.


And when I called Sony Tech Support today, they told me that I can... send it back.


They also made sure to tell me that they have only a 1% failure rate in these machines. And they repeated that to me several times to make sure I knew that only 1% of their machines ever fail like this.

So how many millions of units do they have in the marketplace? And somehow, with only a 1% failure rate, both of the machines I’ve had have failed?

The first girl who helped me today told me that the update can do that to machines. Now, when I first got my PS3, one of the selling points was that the machine is essentially “future proof,” but if these firmware updates might fry your machine completely, then that’s not really future-proofing anything, is it? The girl seemed to be totally nonchalant in telling me this, too, like it shouldn’t bother me.

So suddenly, I’m feeling a whole lot less evangelical, folks. I’m going to call my friends who I convinced to buy the PS3 this week, and I’m going to make sure they know that this might be an issue. I thought I could sneer at the Xbox 360 RROD, but it turns out this machine is just as susceptible to sudden and complete system death. At least in my experience.

When I mentioned to the second guy I dealt with on the phone today that I felt like should write about why I couldn’t write my reviews, and how unreliable my experience with the PS3 has become in the last month and a half, he told me to “go ahead and slander us if it makes you feel better.”

When I asked him to clarify what part of the account I’ve just given you above was untrue, he then said, “Okay, I’m sorry, I guess that was incorrect.” Fucking ay, right, it’s inaccurate. It can’t be slander if it's true, and my personal experience with the PS3 has gone from dream to big fat pain in the ass in one fell swoop. And as a reviewer, that’s got to be the review now.

I still love my PS3 in theory, but if I weren’t sweating my taxes right now, I’d just go buy a stand-alone Blu-Ray player tomorrow and completely remove the PS3 from the equation. When I get it back, if it works, great. I’ll be thrilled. But I can’t rely on it anymore to actually work when I need it to, and I find it both embarrassing (publicists don’t send me these Blu-Ray discs out of general human kindness) and frustrating (I bought a Blu-Ray player because I wanted to watch some goddamn Blu-Ray discs) to think that I dropped that much money on a machine that, at the moment, seems to be worth so very little."

In my opinion, these next-generation systems are fitting too much power in too small a package. I have a feeling that heat is the number one issue for both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. If you've seen and felt both of these consoles in action, you'd notice that they both generate an incredible amount of heat, and people don't really pay attention to taking care of that problem; they turn off the system right after playing [it's recommended to leave it idle for 10-20 minutes to cool down after play], they play for long stretches of time....these systems get a lot of abuse. So eventually this takes its toll on the hardware because of the massive amount of heat that gets accumulated inside these systems.

Hopefully in the future, game console makers will build systems where looks don't matter as much as reliability. I wouldn't really mind if the next Xbox were as big as the Xbox 1, so long as its more reliable. The same goes for the Playstation 4.


  1. It just shows how much reliable the next gen consoles are.

    Wii - Brick
    Xbox360 - 3RL
    PS3 - BDL

    Why back in the PS1 days the only problem people ever had was the Alignment of lenses it can be easily fixed by going to sony center and let them recalibrate it for you.

    Well remember Snes days, The major problem wasn't the console it was the cartridge but most can be fixed by using condensed air and just dusk off the memory thingy inside (Or in my case, Hipanin na lang!)

    Don't get me wrong though, i own those three consoles and as far as i know this generation is where players are practically cautious about their consoles.

    Where is the time where we just play our psx from 7pm to 7am (final fantasy 7!)

    Haha :( Fortunately i haven't gotten any of those errors yet.

  2. Good for you that you haven't been hit. I, for one, was hit with 3RL with my first Xbox 360. Now that 360 is working thanks to repairs from someone at Pinoyxbox.

    At the time my original 360 was being repaired, I bought a second 360, this time with a 1 year warranty from the seller, which should be expiring some time this year. Actually I should get around to claiming that, since my disc drive is already acting up (console still works though, after a bit of opening and closing...)

    That said, I agree that this gen is probably the worst in terms of hardware reliability. Hopefully MS learned their lesson already (since they were forced to spend over a billion for repairs alone, and have gotten a lot of negative publicity for it). As for Sony and Nintendo's hardware issues, it seems those don't get reported on as much as Microsoft's, even if the problems do exist....negative publicity for Microsoft is an easy (and more attractive) headline, I suppose.

  3. lol Nintendo's system failure is usually credited to modifying the system.

    I got mine modified at HK last june, i kinda borked it a little bit (i updated my us wii with Jap paper mario update) luckily for me, i can understand a little of technogarble xD.

  4. I got the same problem today(doesn't read discs).I took it back to the store and they said they will send it to the dealer and there it will be desided if it is going to be replases or fixed.After reading the article i feel realy disapointed.I had i ps2 and it has lasted for 4 year and my ps3 died in 2 weeks.

  5. I just bought my PS3 yesterday after debating with myself for a week if i should get this or a 360. Ultimately I broke down and got the Sony because my PS2 is on it's last leg and HD DVD is a dead format and I, foolishly it would seem, assumed the PS3 would be the better choice because there is more room for technological growth and development.

    Imagine my suprise and frustration when I went to watch Plant Earth and it didn't acknowledge the disc. I thought well, maybe it's the disc, it looks fine but who knows. So I tried the other 4, no luck. Now I'm starting to get concerned, I throw in the Welcome to Playstation 3 BluRay with the demos and such on it, no luck. Try Ghost Recon 2, no luck, try COD3, no luck. Brand new out of the box, freshly updated, less than 18 hours old...worth peice of sh#@.

    At least it will be under warranty, but I've got a sour taste in my mouth the Sony may well not be able to wash out. When the so called "most powerful gaming machine on earth" can't play anything more than it's basic set up, and the tutorial from GRAW2 before it completely collapses as a system, count me out.

    Thanks for taking my money Sony, how BluRay can or will survive as a format is beyond me if the people who designed it can't make a player capable of playing it. I thought I was getting a steal, as it turns out Sony are the ones who made out like a bandit.

    P.S. I'd also like to thank Sony for crapping on their fan base and making my PS2 library obsolete because this worthless $400 paperweight isn't backwards compatible. I knew that when I got it, but they've spit on the fans that made the PS2 a success in large part because of it's BC with PS1. This is what I get for straying away from my PC.