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Video game companies don’t want us fixing our own consoles

by Eric Frederiksen | February 27, 2017February 27, 2017 3:00 pm PDT

The likes of Sony, Microsoft, and other big names in the gaming industry don’t want us repairing our own consoles, and they’re currently lobbying against laws that would let us dive into our systems to repair simple and straight-forward problems.

The Entertainment Software Association is actively opposing a bill in Nebraska and will likely go after similar bills in states like Minnesota, New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts as well. A letter from the ESA to bill sponsor Senator Lydia Brasch calls the bill unnecessary and says it would “threaten consumer safety and security” and that it “mandates the disclosure of protected proprietary information.”

It’s really about the money, though.

Manufacturers cite concerns like consumer safety and information security, but these bills account for that sort of thing. Vice notes that manufacturers aren’t liable for wounds incurred during the repair process, and the bills don’t require them to release software-unlocking tools. The bills also have provisions to protect trade secrets.

Instead, it’s about control and aftermarket profits. Most game consoles are sold at a loss, and game companies make up most of that by continuing to sell games for the systems. Even the simplest of fixes for these things can be costly. A console out of warranty can easily cost $100 to repair. For the cost of a Torx screwdriver – something like $3 – I was able to repair a stuck fan in an Xbox 360. The same fix from Microsoft could’ve cost me a repair fee and shipping along with a weeks-long wait and no guarantee that I’d get my same console back.

Vice cites the PlayStation 3’s Yellow Line of Death error, for which Sony asked $200 to send you a refurbished device. Electronics teardown site iFixit has a kit that costs just $40 by comparison.

On top of the price of replacing or repairing the system directly through the console manufacturer, the companies also make money selling licenses to repair outfits that are then considered “Authorized” to do the fix.

It should be noted that game console companies aren’t the only ones that oppose these sorts of bills. Apple hates these kinds of bills, and everyone from car manufacturers to tractor companies have opposed them. Out-of-warranty repair is a big revenue stream for all of these companies, and so is that license control. Giving that up would be costly for them, both in terms of the lost revenue and the cost to adhere to the regulations of those bills.

But it would be a huge boon to those of us who don’t mind going through the headache of popping open a game console or mobile phone through hidden tabs to save a huge hunk of cash.


Eric Frederiksen

Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, pushing him to beg for his own,...

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