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Console repair: Who ya gonna call?

March 6, 2010

After throwing yourself down on the couch with palpable anticipation to play the game you just paid a little over $60 for, what’s the worst thing that could happen? For most it’s whatever delays that precious game time (“I’ll do the dishes later!”), but in these days of advanced but delicate hardware it’s probably some sort of light of death.

The Xbox 360 has its infamous red ring, and both the Wii and PS3 have a yellow light (which I recently found out existed for the latter a few weeks ago, unfortunately). After you’ve realized what the problem is, and you’ve finished screaming at the gaming gods for betraying you, it’s time to decide what to do next. Do you call up the manufacturer? Or do you go to a local retailer to find out what they can do? Let the Gazette help with that decision — hit the jump.

For 360 owners the decision is an easy one. Microsoft offers a three-year warranty exclusively for victims (if you will) of the red ring of death. They also offer a one-year warranty for every other problem. So if you have a disc drive problem in the fourth year, and you only want Microsoft to touch your system, be prepared to pony up some dough. Microsoft charges $100 for out of warranty repairs.

Video game retailers that provide console repair services charge $100 to repair 360s as well. Play N Trade, a videogame retailer headquartered in Newport Beach, Calif., charges $100 for repairs for 360s with the RRoD. An employee at a local Play N Trade said they ask for a non-refundable $25 deposit, and the actual repair costs $75.

Play N Trade has locations in South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and 40 states in the United States (Hawaii, Texas, Minnesota, New Jersey, and more).

There are also less expensive, lesser-known alternatives in each state. For example, Gamers Console Repair, a San Antonio, Tex. based electronics repair shop, says they charge $89, plus tax, to fix a 360 that has red ringed.

Though the PS3 and Wii aren’t as malfunction-prone as the 360, they can suffer from their own issues, whether it’s because of a software update that bricks the system or extensive playing overheats the motherboard. Nintendo charges out of warranty Wii owners $85 ($75 plus $10 shipping) to service their Wiis. A support representative said it takes 14 to 16 business days to service and send the system back.

Sony is a bit more demanding of your wallet and with their warranty restrictions. To even be considered “in warranty” you must have proof of purchase, i.e. the receipt. If you still have that and are still within your one-year warranty, then lucky you! For the rest of us Sony charges $119 plus tax to service the system. This does not include the $29 for shipping you’ll need, bringing the grand total to $150. After they receive and repair the system, it will take eight to 12 business days before you get it back.

Play N Trade charges more than Nintendo and Sony to repair their consoles. $100 to fix the most common problems for the Wii and $165 to fix PS3s, the Play N Trade employee said. To fix a PS3 they ask for a non-refundable $45 deposit and $120 to actually service the system. The Play N Trade employee said it could be between 10 days to two weeks to repair a console and that they do repairs in the order that they receive them.

Apart from the console manufacturers and brick-and-mortar stores like Play N Trade, there are also online stores that offer repair services.

Videogame911 is a computer and electronics service provider that specializes in electronic repair and refurbishing services accredited by the better Business Bureau. The plus side of Videogame911 is that they don’t have flat costs but rather charge depending on what is wrong with your system. The down side is that you won’t know how much it will cost until after you send them your system. However, they won’t do anything to it without your permission.

As someone who’s victim to an overheated, yellow light PS3, choosing what path to go down on the journey called “must play ‘Heavy Rain’” is a tough one. There’s a sense of assurance I have sending it to Sony but a good feeling I get knowing the people fixing my system are a few feet away. Or do I just buy a new one?

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