Posted on July 7, 2007,

The True Story Behind Broken Kiosks

xbox360

We have all seen them, in some form or another. The demo kiosks at your local big-name retail store. Xbox or Playstation, Handheld or Console, it makes no difference. What we can be sure of, is that at least one of them will not be working.

The real question, is why? Is the constant state of activity breaking the machines prematurely? Are there uncaring customers who mistreat the equipment? What we have to ask then, is if these machines break so easily, what does that say about the machine itself?

I went to seek the answer for myself.

walmart

The rush of air-conditioning blasts through the automatic doors, resembling the breath of some ravenous beast. Upon crossing the dirt-ridden threshold of the entrance, I am greeted by an overweight man in a blue vest.

“Welcome to Wal-Mart!”

Welcome, indeed. The harsh overhead lights seem to sap all color from the place, while the throngs of humanity shuffle by with overfull carts crammed with bargains. I start to make my way through the labyrinth of merchandize, while my ears are assaulted by some sort of country music over the PA.

I go past the absolutely messy toy section, skirting my way around an elderly couple arguing over puzzle themes. I dash through the sports isles, passing the housewares, barely dodging an unmanned cart, and suddenly I am there. I arrive at the electronics department.

After making my way around the giant pile of $4.99 bargain DVDs, I head towards the gaming section. It’s about what I expect. Currently assembled is a mish-mash of gaming kiosks ranging from DS to PS3. Upon closer inspection, I note that the Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles are currently broken. The PS3 seems to not even be plugged in, as the Xbox 360 console seems to have frozen during some video demo.

walmart employee

Bracing myself for the worst, I step up towards the electronics store register, to ask about the issue.

Do you know why those 2 video game kiosks are not working?

“Video games are over there.”

Yeah, uhmâ$¦ but yeah do you know why they are broken?

“What’s broken?”

The Xbox 360 kiosk, and th-

“Kiosk?”

Yeah, the uh, the machine that plays the demos.

“Oh yeah, they break all the time.”

Satisfied that he had answered my question, he then proceeds to walk away from the register, towards a pregnant woman watching a plasma TV with a confused expression on her face.

Dejected, I make my way back over to the kiosks to get a second look of what the mysterious problem might be. The PS3 has an obvious solution. I can tell that the power cord isn’t even plugged in. The Xbox 360 remains a mystery, because in my experience if an Xbox 360 is going to lock up, it definitely isn’t during a demo video. Just then, a blue vested employee sneaks up behind me.

kiosk2

“I’m sorry, do you need any assistance?” (Score 1 for customer service)

Yeah, I’m wondering why these kiosks are broken.

“Oh yeah, they break all the time.”

(Sigh) Yeah I heard, but why?

“Well, the PS3 would lock up during Motorstorm like every 5 minutes. So we just turned it off.”

Does it really? I mean who is in charge of maintaining these?

“Well, the reps are.”

The reps? How often do they come around?

“Well, the last time he was here wasâ$¦. Uhmâ$¦ When they installed it a few months ago.”

Wow, well what about the 360 then? Have you ever had one get those “Red Rings of Death”?

“Red rings of what? No, it just tends to lock up. Is there anything otherwise I can help you out with? Okay, have a good day.”

The last part of his good-bye seemed hurried, as if he discovered he had said too much. I was pretty sure I had gotten the information I needed, so after picking up some 2-for-1 batteries, I started the drive home.

Now, sitting here reading over my notes, I’m trying to discover the meaning behind what he said. Who is to blame here? It really makes no sense. These kiosks are in plain view, and the operation of such could mean the difference between buying a console and not for the uninformed customer. Why are they allowed to be neglected?

Perhaps it is both the retailer and the manufacturer that are to blame. Video games consoles seem more like cars these days, with prolonged use causing major breakdowns in operation. Who then, pays for the systems to be replaced after they fail?

The only prediction for the future of this enigma is Microsoft’s recent attempts to take control over their failing hardware. Will this new-found doctrine extend down to the undecided consumer? Only time will tell.

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4 Comments on The True Story Behind Broken Kiosks

WarriorWthn

On July 8, 2007 at 6:31 am

lock-ups during motorstorm……are u kiddin me……mine works totally fine and i play it for 2 hrs a day sometimes maybe more when i wanna show off the graphics to my friends……….MICROSOFT IS PAYIN WAL-MART TO SAY THIS CRAP. plus i do 8 hrs of folding every 2nd day…no issues for me till now.

`x_Fenira

On July 8, 2007 at 11:17 am

course yours works, he wasnt talking about retail PS3′s, he was talking about ‘kiosks’s', those machines that play demos.

somewhat

On July 9, 2007 at 11:10 am

MICROSOFT IS PAYIN WAL-MART TO SAY THIS CRAP

wow, what drivel… please re-read your post a little before submittig it next time

Stigkl

On July 10, 2007 at 11:49 am

Just had a read through, yeah I wondered why so as well and I manufacture and develop kiosk machines, and yeah a few machines might go down a year but they are up and runing in a few weeks again plus most of our kiosk machines dont fail so I wonder what happens to these machines as well. Building a kiosk does require certain aspects of attention and thinking through but it certainly is not rocket science so there should be more and up working, here my local McD has 2 gaming kiosks and they are never switched on, whats the point?? I wonder.