I was extremely eager to see the results of our poll "Has your PS2 or Xbox ever needed repair due to the Disc Read Error or Dirty Disc Error problems?".

As a 3 time victim of the dreaded DRE and DDE (2 PS2's and 1 Xbox died) and having spoken with or communicated (via email) with countless other gamers in the same predicament, my curiousity was picqued; just how many consumers did Sony and Microsoft screw over in their attempt to keep parts cheap and costs down?

3867 peope took part in our poll and according to our survey, 34% of these lucky bastards have never experienced a problem with their system. Well goody for you. That leaves the remaining 67% of us with repair bills, down time where we can't play the system and of course extreme frustration. Even excusing 17% of these votes as phony or bogus, that still leaves around 50% of gamers who have had to have their system sent in for repair or actually try and repair it themselves, which as we all know, instantly voids the warranty.

I don't like that percentage. That's awfully high, don't you think? Do you remember your NES, Genesis, or PlayStation breaking down? I sure don't. Until the PS2 came along, I never owned a system that broke down once and I've pretty much owned every system you can think of. Up until I sold them all on eBay a month ago, all of the classic systems were still working as good as new. Of course, my Colecovision hasn't seen a lot of action lately, but it sure did 21 years ago. It's been moved, packed up, moved again, played, stored, moved, stored etc for two decades and it still works. About 6 months ago I moved my PS2 from the shelf to the floor extremely carefully to dust and it stopped working. I moved it about 12 inches and the parts inside just fell apart. Good one. What a lousy piece of %$#@ system. That was the second PS2 system I owned. I also paid $400 CDN for that one as I purchased it only about 8 months after it launched and the price was still insane.

Who would have ever thought that those extended warranties slick electronics store salesmen attempt to ram down your wallets would actually ever come in handy? Certainly not me! But I noticed something extremely telling awhile back. When I bought my second PS2 from an electronics store back in 2002, my extended warranty was a "replacement" warranty, which meant that if anything went wrong they would replace it. A few months in, I had a problem with it and had to return it to the store. They told me it was a "repair" warranty and they would be sending it in for repair rather than replacing it. I showed them my original receipt (keep those receipts people, that's what they're for!) and they stood around and marvelled at it. They had no choice to send me home with a brand new PS2 and they tried to tell me that if anything went wrong with that PS2 that it would be a repair, not replacement. I simply took the receipt out again, showed them the expiry date and said "No. It's a replacement warranty and it will continue to be until this date in 2004. See?" Those guys will try anything to keep the customer down. What I'm getting at, dear reader, is that in the short time between buying my second PS2 and it breaking down, the electronics stores completely changed their warranties from replacement kind to repair kind. And why do you think that is? Because they were replacing too damn many faulty systems.

The Xbox is no better, so if it's sitting in the corner snickering while the PS2 gets lambasted, it had better wipe that cheese-eating grin off its smug fat face. Thanks to the infamous Thompson Drive, the game I was playing the most was "Get the frickin' Xbox to work". I was getting Dirty Disc Errors right out of the box with brand new games. Unfortunately I didn't have an extended warranty for my Xbox as the bundle package I was forced to buy had already put me $800 CDN in the hole and I coudn't afford another $50 to cover my ass. I was sorry that I hadn't. Luckily, the boys down at my local EB did me a solid and took my old Thompson-addled Xbox and replaced it with the latest model and sold me a two year extended warranty on that one. I was definitely lucky, but thousands weren't.

My whole point is not to rag on these companies for using inferior parts in their expensive electronics and then turning around and charging us for their costly repairs - oh wait a sec - yeah, that's exactly what I'm doing! Here's the rub. If it happened to me or you, or that guy over there, that would be cool. I hear GameCube's break down sometimes. Sometimes. I don't hear of thousands of gamers getting stuck with broken GameCube's though, because the one thing Nintendo has been doing right for decades is building systems that are made to last. DDE & DRE's are an epidemic. We still receive emails from frustrated gamers asking us what to do.

Sony eventually came around and began repairing PS2's free of charge - if you pressed them hard enough - "Fee schedule, my ass" said I, to the Tier 1 Sony Support chick who had the nerve to quote me a fee for the priviledge of fixing my second PS2. I will say the turnaround was quite fast, but I did have to shell out the bucks to send my system to them and I was out of a PS2 for ten days.

Here we are poised on the precipice of another generation of consoles and that freaks me out. Is my Xbox 360 going to kack out because Microsoft needed to keep costs down? Is my PS3 going to need a trip to the Sony Emergency Room when I remove it from the shelf to dust underneath it? These systems are going to be serious cashola and I expect them to work. But after what I've witnessed this time around, my confidence is shot. Hell, don't even get me started on the whole PSP dead pixel and other malfunctions fiasco. It's clear that Sony hasn't learned their lesson.

Do yourself a HUGE favor this time around. Bite the bullet and buy that extended warranty even if it means going without one of those games you want. And no, I haven't just bought shares in some extended warranty company. It's just good protection. If the big companies won't protect you, you have no choice but to do it yourself.

Let's hope that in 5 years our next poll on console reliability will reflect that the majority of gamer's systems are problem free. Just don't hold your breath.

By Vaughn