Editorial: The High Cost of Rock Band Peripheral Replacement
I have to admit, I love Rock Band. Getting your friends together in a room and rocking out to whatever the “audience” happens to pick is great fun. I’ve spent entirely too much time playing it lately.
Perhaps that’s why I was rewarded last night with the horrifying sound of a broken bass pedal on my drum kit. Luckily, I regularly read the Rock Band forums, and so I know that Harmonix (read EA) has been offering replacements for broken pedals.
I headed over to my computer to check out the return procedure, and was surprised to learn that EA has set up a 24-hour call center just to handle Rock Band issues. Very impressive. I called in, went through a brief process with an automated operator, and then had a chance to talk to a live person. I was connected to a very nice customer service representative who listened to my problem, and said that they would certainly replace my broken pedal.
At this point, I was amazed at how well the process was being handled. After reading horror stories in the forums, and across the net, I had envisioned the replacement process as some sort of medievil-esque gauntlet that would require thumbscrews and a public flogging before it was complete.
Unfortunately, this is where the process went wrong. I was informed that I would need to provide my shipping details, and I would then be sent an empty box to ship my defective pedal back to EA. Once EA received the defective pedal, I would be shipped a new pedal. When I asked what the turnaround for this process was, I was told that it would take 2-4 weeks.
Upon expressing my displeasure with the turnaround time, I was told that I could opt for an express replacement option. This would involve EA shipping me a new pedal, and I would then return my broken pedal in the same box. Obviously, this option appealed much more to me. However, there is a catch, and it’s an expensive one.
To exercise the ‘Express’ option, you are required to provide EA with a credit card number. After doing so, EA places a pre-authorized charge on your card. Once they receive the defective item back, they remove the charge. In principle, I have no problem with this idea. It insures that they receive the defective item back, so that they can refurbish it or determine ways to improve the product. I was more than willing to allow a charge equivalent to the purchase price of a pedal, so I was expecting a figure in the $25 – $30 range.
Imagine my surprise when I was told that the charge required was $125! I expressed my disbelief at the amount, but was told it was a non-negotiable policy. At the time, I was frustrated and just said, “The heck with it.” Upon reflection, I decided to call again today and see if this was indeed correct, hoping that there had been some confusion over ‘drum pedal’ vs. ‘drum kit.’
Unfortunately, I found out that the first CSR I spoke with was right on the money (no pun intended). The gentleman I spoke with today explained that initially, EA had been sending out items with no holding charge whatsoever. Apparently, they had so many items not returned, they decided to implement this policy.
Now, I have no problem with the policy in principle. I have no gripe with EA trying to insure that they are not getting ripped off by bogus replacement claims. However, the amount of a holding charge should reflect the price of the item being returned. If a Rock Band guitar retails for $60, that should be the holding charge for that item. If the drum pedal retails for $20, that should be the charge for that item. A blanket $125 charge regardless of item only insures that people like me will employ other methods to repair our peripherals.
If you’ve got a broken pedal, or you notice that your pedal is beginning to crack, I’d recommend reading this thread on the Rock Band forums. Several members of the community are looking into the use of an electrcnic drum trigger in place of the Rock Band kick pedal, with some success. Some of the fixes require some electrical circuit know-how, but it ends with you using an actual pedal, and not some plastic thing.
There’s also a thread over at ScoreHero that details how a user adapted a real kick pedal to work with Rock Band for only a few dollars (assuming of course you have an old kick pedal lying around).
If you’d rather repair your existing pedal, rasehead, a user in the Rock Band Forums has created a bolt-on pedal reinforcement cut from billeted aluminum diamondplate (shown in image). You can grab one of those from eBay here for $14.99. If you’re leery of screwing something to your pedal because it will void your warranty, another auction features a similar plate that attaches with double-sided tape, but it’s about $20 more expensive.
As you can see, the broken pedal problem is widespread, and as is usual for gamers, some very creative and interesting ways to prevent/repair it are popping up all over. It’s rumored that the replacement pedals are different than the pedals that shipped with Rock Band. If you’ve received one of these ‘new’ pedals, let us know!
Even with all of this headache, I still love Rock Band. Even after breaking the bass pedal, the group continued playing, simply without a drummer. Hopefully, EA can amend this policy to something a wee bit more reasonable in the near future.