10 Most Common Failures of the Consoles of Yesteryear

By Shaun Clayton in Daily Lists, Video Games
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 8:00 am
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Game consoles. They are our life, our love, our best escape until someone finally gets around to inventing the Holodeck. Unfortunately, like anything mass-produced from the same source, they are certain to have a few... glitches (kind of like the Royal Family). Most present in people's minds is the Red Ring of Death, the blinking red indication that your Xbox 360 has up and died.

However, almost every single console since time immemorial (i.e., 1977) had had its own glaring problem, which frustrated nerds then just as much as the RRoD does today. Take an aggravating walk down down the Hall of Videogame Console Failures Past, won't you?

10) Fragile Buttons, PSP
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The PSP, like most of Sony's products, has an elegant design. But elegance rarely means hardiness, and the first PSP was easily thwarted by dirt. Every single button on the hand-held would immediately get stuck if even the slightest bit of dirt got caught in them, which obviously meant they also stopped working. But even the buttons didn't stick, that only meant they wore out more quickly, and failed to register when pushed. The problem wasn't so pronounced in later models, but certainly for the cost of the system when it first came out -- about $250 -- you would kind of expect, uh, something that works.

9) Dead Controllers, Atari 5200
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The Atari 5200 was pretty much Atari's answer to the question of "How bad can Atari screw up making a sequel to the immensely popular Atari 2600?" Besides inherent design flaws like not being able to play the immense library of 2600 titles, the biggest problem with the 5200 was the controllers. Due to terrible design mixed with trying to save on costs, the CX52-class controllers had a failure rate of about 25% to 45%. People would find that the controller buttons would simply stop working, like a lazy college roommate, and the analog joystick would become as unreliable as a the pontifications of John Romero.

8) Random Resets, Dreamcast
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The Dreamcast was pretty much dead shortly after it came out due to Sega's poor reputation and Sony's clever "Hey, that PlayStation 2 is coming out real soon now!" marketing strategy. The most common problem Dreamcast owners found was that in the middle of games, the console would suddenly jump back to the main Dreamcast screen for no reason, like that bipolar ex-lover who would suddenly be awake at two in the morning, crying in the bathtub. Essentially, this problem was caused by heat from the power board causing it to expand, putting slight pressure on the power board connector pins. Over time it would make these pins bend out of position and not maintain a proper connection. So, the solution is to bend these back, wary that you don't burn all your hair off dealing with electricity - that hair was needed to pull out when you played Jet Grind Radio, especially the Tokyo Underground Sewage Facility.

7) Disc Read Error, PS2
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The PlayStation 2 had a pesky "Disc Read Error" which prevented you from playing games, making the console useless, except for... okay, no, this made it totally useless. This error would often manifest in the sound of a grinding noise after you put a disk in, or the sound of the owner shouting "WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS GODDAMN MACHINE!!??" The solutions were simple, like cleaning the lens, to not so simple, like taking apart the machine and adjusting the laser manually with a Philips-head screwdriver. You know it's the future when you have to adjust lasers so you can properly have digital Japanese women mud wrestle for your pleasure.

6) DVD Failure, Xbox
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​When Microsoft built the original Xbox they were kinda like "WE MAKE SYSTEM, PUT PARTS TOGETHER! DONE!" While the first major problem it had was overheating and occasionally catching fire, that was the interesting, sexy problem that was actually pretty rare. The far more common complaint is that the laser burnt out, because the DVD drive Microsoft used for the first revision of the system was the Thompson TGM600, which was terrible. Xbox eventually started using drives by Samsung, which were much better and had a lower failure rate. Then they started using the Philips VAD6053, which was as bad as the Thompson, with the laser also burning out. Then they used a Hitachi drive, which was good. Then they released the Xbox 360.

5) Total System Failure Due to the Console Never Being Intended to Have a Whole Game Machine Jammed in the Cartridge Slot, Sega 32X
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I imagine the creation of the Sega 32X was something like this: a bunch of small dogs are placed in a warehouse and given bowls of chili. On the floor, spaced evenly in a giant grid, were console ideas. Whichever idea had the most dog crap piled on it at the end of the day Sega went with, hence the 32X. The 32X was essentially "Let's make a half-assed system by stacking another system on top of a Genesis." The problem with this was connection between the cartridge slot on the Genesis and the 32X wasn't so good - people would find that if you even bumped it slightly it would crash. Of course the cartridge slot pins would get bent over time, and then it wouldn't work at all. It's just a matter of the cartridge slot on the Genesis was never meant to hold so much weight.

4) Dead Controllers, Sega Master System
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The Sega Master System was Sega's answer to the NES -- it had superior graphics, but never quite managed to claw its way into Nintendo's marketshare. Not helping this at all were its d-pad controllers, which were about as durable as a battleship made out of fine saltine crackers. It made the Atari 5200 controller look like Old Faithful. The buttons would stop working, the d-pad itself would stop working, and the controller would just die. No Alex Kidd in Miracle World for you.

3) Pixel Degradation, Game Boy
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The Game Boy came onto the scene in the late 1980s, and essentially established the firm pylons of portable gaming that Nintendo clings to this day. Still, it had one slight problem - over time, the screen edges would start losing pixels, or having garbled pixels, and eventually the view space grew narrower and narrower, like a digital glaucoma. Apparently one of the cables would just start wearing out and begin losing the connection. It wasn't a huge problem for Nintendo as they had released successive Game Boy models by the time massive failures started to arrive; still, a Game Boy with a good screen after three years is a small miracle.

2) Skipping FMV, PlayStation
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The original PlayStation was pretty awesome, ending Nintendo's dominance of the home market. However, people occasionally found that the full motion video on games would stutter and/or the console would start ticking, like it was going to explode. This was because of poorly placed vents. The interior would heat up and the plastic moldings would warp; the laser assembly would then knock up around the CD, causing it to not work. Solutions ranged from placing the unit on its side, or placing the unit upside-down, or just banging on it with your fist until the unit worked or the damn thing was smashed to pieces.

1) Worn-Out Connector Pins, NES
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If you've ever blown on a Nintendo cartridge for 15 minutes until you became light-headed, chances are w your NES didn't play games properly because its connector pins had worn out. Those pins, 72 of them, made the connection between the sweet sweet NES cartridge and the system itself, and were prone to corrosion, bent-ness, and filth due to your little sister jamming a sandwich into the console while trying to play "Peanut Butter Sandwich Bros." A console disassembly and proper rinse was often the solution, as was replacing the connector pins entirely. Another solution was to buy a rare NES2 console, which eliminated most of the problems as it allowed you to insert cartridges perpendicular to the system, like almost every cartridge console ever made.

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