Cut-price PS3? It’s time Sony cut the repair cost

by , Conversation Editor Technology 22 August 2011
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The PlayStation 3 now retails for just £199. It’s a tempting price and the cost will surely tumble as shops engage in a PS3 price war. But what if it breaks outside of warranty? Sony wants to charge you £135.

PS3 with YLOD

Last week Sony announced that its PS3 will cost just £199. It’s a huge stretch from the price I paid for my PS3 in 2007 – a little over £400.

Of course, Sony released its original “fat” games console at a loss and over the years it’s been able to cut the console’s manufacturing cost, eventually releasing a much cheaper-to-make slim version in 2009.

So, a lot has happened in the past four years, and I’m in no way bitter about the current price – I hope it tempts a whole host of new gamers to the “PlayStation family”. What I am miffed about is the price of repairing my out-of-warranty original 60 gigabyte (GB) PS3.

My second PlayStation 3 is dead

My launch PS3 passed away after just over a year – the poor sod died young. Back then, Sony kindly replaced the out-of-warranty console with a refurbished model for free, in what it called a “gesture of good will”.

A greater “gesture of good will” would have been if my relatively new console had lasted longer than a noob playing Demon’s Souls. Then again, these things happen… I’ve forgiven them.

That was, until my second PS3 gave up the ghost. The dreaded Yellow Light of Death (YLOD) returned, apparently caused by a possessed The Hills Have Eyes DVD. This console had lasted a little longer – a good two years (nowhere near as long as my original PS1 and PS2, which are still going strong) and well outside the measly three-month warranty Sony hands over for refurbished replacements.

So, how much does Sony want to charge for a repair? 135 smackers. My piggy bank’s wincing at the thought. I’ve tried to explain how much I’ve spent on PlayStation products but, as their customer service team told me, Sony’s got to be fair and treat everyone equally.

Just buy a new PS3?

My PS3’s been lying in its own death bed behind my TV for the past few months. I’ve been weighing up whether it’s worth just handing over the cash. And I was turning around to the idea – until Sony announced a price cut.

£135 for second-hand refurbished 60GB original PS3? Or £199 for a brand-new 160GB PS3 Slim (which I personally deem more reliable) which comes with a £30 controller? Surely I should just buy a new one? Plus, as Becky (@spritesbites) told me on Twitter, I could then ‘sell the broken one on eBay for parts’.

The £135 repair cost may not look too bad when held up against the PS3’s original £425 price tag, but against £199? It’s a massive 68% of the RRP.

To complicate things further, online stores and supermarkets will soon enter a price war as we edge ever closer to Christmas. That £199 will rapidly become £179 with bundled games. I’d be mad to spend £135 for a refurb – wouldn’t I?

Sony’s repair cost compared

So what’s Sony’s defence for this repair cost staying static over the years? Well Sony Computer Entertainment UK told BBC Watchdog in 2009:

‘This figure reflects the cost of repairing a PS3 to the high standard required and includes a door-to-door courier exchange service and other general administrative costs. SCEUK does not profit from this service; in fact, it operates it at a loss in order to offer customers with out-of-warranty PS3s the best price possible.’

It’s a fair defence. Plus, as Jeremy (@Jeremy_LaMont) pointed out on Twitter – the cost of repair is not the parts, but the labour. So although it might be cheaper to buy PS3 components now, the cost of fixing may not have necessarily gone down.

But if parts have nothing to do with it, then we should see a similar cost with other game manufacturers then? Well, actually, Nintendo charges up to £68.50 to fix an out-of-warranty Wii (charges dependent on the specific problem – good idea). And Microsoft charges just £62-plus-tax to fix an Xbox 360.

Sony’s £135 doesn’t look so fair now, does it? But more importantly, it’s now a better investment to buy a whole new console than to get my current PS3 fixed (which is what I’m about to do). Isn’t that a little back-to-front and wasteful?

34 comments

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Lombear

Well my first gen PS3 is still going strong and I would be kinda keen to keep it since the backwards compatibility is quite rare now. However, I take your point on this – but do sympathise with Sony to an extent. Remember the Wii and XBox are simpler machines with cheaper components and so the cost may be less (do they include postage in their repair costs?). Granted twice as much does seem a bit expensive.

Economical repair is probably the real issue here. barring a simple HDD/fan failure humans are probably not able to fix these things in the time / cost equivalent of a new unit being shipped. Common theme all round now (wasn’t there an article on washing machines etc recently?)

Yes, I’m afraid I’m happy to give up the features on my original fat PS3 to get a more reliable model. I think the “simpler” argument doesn’t really fly with the Xbox 360 (Microsoft’s repair cost is cheaper than Nintendo’s despite the 360 being more complex than the Wii). And as Jeremy said, it’s often not about parts.

I do understand that Sony also does repairs in a very complex and high-tech environment – but still, whatever the reason, it makes more sense to buy a new one. Plus, Sony doesn’t charge dependent on the specific problem – it’s even £135 if it’s a simple Blu-ray error. Why not go the Nintendo route?

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Lombear

Maybe MS are still treading carefully due to the myriad issues with earlier Xboxes?

As James says ppl will vote with their wallets and pick up a second hand unit for similar price (I think GAME do them with 1 year warranty still?)

But do you want to take a chance with a second hand unit? Especially when the price between second hand and new isn’t that great. Microsoft still offers a 3-year warranty, so you’d only need to use their OOW service after then. The value proposition between repair and buying new needs to change in my opinion.

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Kyle K.

But isn’t this really in line with everyone else? Think about it for a second.

The 360 costs $199 and, according to their website, if you call in and order a repair it’ll cost you $120, or 60% the cost of a new console. Fill out the repair form online and it’s 50%.
The Wii, which can be bought for £92 charges 75% the cost of a new system.

Sony charged $150 to repair a $299 machine, or 50%. Now, with the price drop they’re charging 60% the cost of a new system.

How is this out of line with the industry standards being set by the other two?

It’s a fair point Kyle. But from my sums in the UK, the cheapest Xbox 360 RRP is £153 for the 4GB console, making the repair cost just over 40% and with the Wii, the cheapest is £130, making the repair cost (remember £68 is the highest it can be) just over 50%.

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James

The price has to come down or else no one is going to use this service.

As pointed out, there is around £60 difference between getting your PS3 repaired (and getting a 3 month warranty) and buying a brand new one and getting a full years warranty.

You could flog both the broken machine for spares (and get say around £20 at worst) and the controller (at least another £20) and end up with a brand new machine plus a free game with most purchases. It makes no sense for anyone now to use Sony’s service bar the fact they want to avoid the new CECH-3000 model with its slightly cheaper internals.

Sony were able to initially offer free repairs on the PS3 (I got my first 60GB done at around 15 months old) and my second 60GB was also repaired free of charge over a year after that, they initially tried to charge me but I wrote them a letter contesting the charge and they did it for free.

The fix in most cases is simply reapplying thermal paste if you DIY it, even with labour costs etc., I fail to see how it can cost them £135 unless they’re wasting money somewhere along the chain.

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dean

My old “fat” ps3 is still going strong also. I also have a dutch Xbox360 that I bought before the playstation (now this is a properly old piece of kit).

I have honestly never had an issue with any of my games consoles, ps1,2,3, xbox360 so I don’t know what some people are doing to them. It’s only controllers I need replacements for :-)

In terms of repairs, the PS3 is one highly complex bit of kit and far more secure than a 360 (which is effectively a PC in a box) and so I expect it to cost more to fix. For me it’s the PS3 network that lets it down

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James

It being ‘complex’ (which it’s really not now) should have nothing to do with the price for it to be repaired.

The £135 is a straight price no matter what, and most faults can be remedied with new thermal paste, with a lot of people doing a DIY fix.

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dean

You are assuming that people have installed Linux on their PC’s or have the inclination to break open their PS3 and start fiddling with electronics. If that is the case, then you will certainly be inclined to fix it yourself, considering that you have invalidated any warranty by putting Linux on it and/or opening it up to “DIY” the fix yourself.

Either way, with a PS3 it’s specialist knowledge that comes with a premium attached. Reading your response, I would surmise that you might be a software developer, therefore you should understand that skills in niche areas are very expensive, hence the high repair price.

Of course it doesn’t mitigate a frankly ridiculous 3 month warranty though, but as I said, I’ve never had anything go wrong with mine.

I’d like to know whether people who have had “breakdowns” with their PS3s have installed Linux on it or not.

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James

No I’m no software developer, only a lowly uni student!

I stand by what I said though, most aren’t a complex fix. It’s literally a matter of opening it up and applying new thermal paste after removing the old stuff. If you Google ‘reflowing PS3′ you’ll see it’s quite an easy job.

That job does not cost £135 to do, nor does replacing a Blu-ray drive either in the machine.

And the Linux point, Sony removed that, plus it’s a software modification so it’s a moot point. It’ll not contribute any more or less than playing a game or watching a film.

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dean

Ok, assumption is moot

I work with a lot of IT contractors, all with specialist skills that are in short supply. With an xbox 360, it is in essence a PC in a box, with a PS3 it is a completely different setup and requires specialist knowledge that is extremely expensive.

This is why we have contractors, they are the experts in a niche field and their prices are very high to reflect that and rightly so. Hence why I don’t find it an issue that the PS3 is so expensive to fix. I bought one of the so-called “faulty” 360 batch which hasn’t gone wrong once.

I believe, that the only reason that people’s consoles have to be repaired is if you’ve opened it up to either a) play pirated games or b) install an alternative operating system.

Any legacy from these issues will cause problems that cost a lot to be fixed.

If it is so easy to fix, maybe you should start a new business “PS3hotfix.org”? :-)

James is quite right that the fix can just be thermal paste – however, there are reports that these fixes when done by amateurs don’t always last.

However, I think saying the Xbox 360 is just a PC in a box, and the PS3 is much more complex is not really true. When you open either, the set up is basically the same. There is a motherboard with components on – which is likely to have overheated, either displacing thermal paste or melting solder. The fix is the same in both cases.

The PS3 is more complex in that it’s CPU is the Cell processor, whereas the 360 has multiple cores. A engineer would not need to go anywhere near this complexity other than possibly replacing these components.

I’m with Patrick on this one.

As a PS3 owner whose second PS3 decided to give up the ghost a month ago, I can’t justify paying the £135 repair fee, so I’ve decided to go without. Shame, Uncharted 3 looks really good…

However, I can see why someone would choose to purchase a brand new console over paying for a refurb. We’re bound to see the PS3 come down to a very competitive price once the £199 RRP units launch (and really, it’s about time!).

I do think that the 3 month warranty period on the refurb units shows a worrying lack of confidence on Sony’s part. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to extend this to a year? How long are we expecting our tech products to last these days?

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Jared

Personally, with an out of warranty PS3.. I wouldn’t feel obligated to send my PS3 to sony for repair. If I were in your shoes and had the money handy to buy a new one, I’d consider looking up a DIY or even local game repairer’s (in hopes of a cheap repair… but with the expectations of buying a new one eventually) I have an 80GB MGS4 semi backwards compatible PS3..I wouldn’t dare trade it in for another refurb. I’d rather gamble fixing it myself or getting it done locally. Then if worst case scenario comes I’d consider a newer slim PS3…(I still play a lot of PS2 games) another reason why i wouldnt recommend trading is because in order to get your copywrighted game saves off of your old PS3 (no, backing up your data apparently doesn’t back up copyrighted saves) you need your old and new PS3 on and physically connected together via ethernet cable to enable the data transferring function, thats the ONLY way to retain your copyrighted saves. So if you’re ok with getting a new PS3, I’d recommend hanging on to your old one until you’ve copied everything onto your new one. Then sell it for parts or use it for a paperweight.

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Jared

Another thing to consider is that this may be what Sony want’s…can’t blame them for wanting to sell units. Notice the only downfall for this ridiculous price is if the owner of the PS3 decides to convert to a different console. So here’s your options:
A) Pay the £135 to Sony. (They still get your money, regardless how much is a profit)
B) Buy a new PS3. (Increase their sales numbers)
C) Convert to a different console. (Your loss..lol)

I’m no finance buff but a 66% chance that they’ll get your money. (Assuming that they’ve got it once before from your original purchase.) Not a bad marketing ploy.

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Istanbull

So, Microsoft will charge you $120, according to their website, if you call in and need your out of warranty 360 fixed. Cheapest Xbox is about $200. So they’re charging 60%.

Sony charges $150 to fix a PS3, which was $299 – or 50%. Now with the price cut, Sony is charging, you guessed it. 60% as well.

Now, if you fill out an online form instead of talking to a rep the 360 repair bill drops to $100, or 50% of the cost of the 360 – but my point here is, isn’t this a double standard? I don’t see any articles complaining about 360 or Wii repair costs. And Nintendo charges roughly 75% the cost of a Wii.

Sony’s very much in line with the industry standards in this regard.

Hi Istanbull – the other point to raise in response to this is that the charges are very different in the US than they are in the UK. I am specifically talking about UK prices where the numbers don’t line up quite like that for Nintendo or Microsoft, nor Sony. £135 is $220 if you wanted a comparison.

If Sony charges $150 in the US, that would equate to £90 which seems more fair.

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wavechange

From what I have read, overheating of processors and poor solder connections are common problems with these games consoles. Overheating is a common problem in electronic devices but poor soldering is much less common than in the days when equipment was hand soldered.

Well designed and manufactured electronic equipment should be extremely reliable. Hi-Fi separates are good examples of quality products, but most consumer electronics are cheap and manufacturers cut corners to keep prices down and profits up.

Which? encourages us to go back to the retailer if a product is not of satisfactory quality. Here is a case where there seems to be plenty of evidence of an expensive product of unsatisfactory quality, and I hope that Sony will recognise this and take appropriate action. Why not offer free repairs if the unit has failed due to one of the well-known problems?

Any games console manufacturer that offers a three year parts & labour warranty could capture a big share of the market.

As far as going back to the retailer – using the Sale of Goods Act with your retailer is certainly a good idea. The guide to how to do this is linked to at the bottom of the article. However, when you have a refurb model (ie. it’s already been replaced) that potentially becomes more complicated and going back to the manufacturer seems like your only choice.

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wavechange

It seems as if legislation designed to protect us isn’t working. Many of us have tried and failed to get retailers to take responsibility for repairing goods that fail soon after the guarantee has expired. Many more have probably never tried.

Which? does a good job in reporting safety problems to manufacturers and letting consumers know about them. It would be really good to see Which? exerting some pressure on manufacturers to help customers who have purchased items that are unreliable due to a well established design fault, either directly or via their retailers.

Premature failure and high repair cost produces a lot of waste, so a Which? campaign to fight for our rights would not just save consumers’ money.

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Dave

Get a PC, problem solved ^__^

Can’t play Uncharted 3 on a PC ;)

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wavechange

Patrick and Jack are both Which? staff who have each had TWO PS3s die on them. I challenge you to try to get free replacements to help encourage everyone else with a failed PS3 to do the same.

The PS3 problems are so well documented that this seems an ideal case for pushing a company to face up to its responsibilities. Other Sony products have been praised for their reliability, but the PS3 is clearly an exception.

Hi Wavechange, trust me I’ve tried. I’m afraid since it’s four years since I bought my first PS3, Sony simply aren’t having it. This is despite multiple calls.

It does appear that the reliability of the console has improved greatly with the PS3 Slim, so they’ve faced it in that sense. However, that’s still no excuse – it’s important they get it right the first time around. It would be nice to see Sony follow Microsoft’s lead with a 3 year warranty, but first and foremost, the price of repair needs to come down.

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wavechange

Sorry to hear this, Patrick. I am becoming convinced that the way forward is for customers to look for extended warranties, provided that these cover parts & labour and have no unreasonable exclusion clauses in the terms & conditions. Good for Microsoft.

I can see why this Conversation is about getting the repair cost down, if Sony won’t do the decent thing.

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DanielCake

Definitely charging too much I feel – especially as the service they provide isn’t always the greatest – for £135 sometimes you’re just paying to be given a refurb that breaks a few days later, and then has to be replaced again.

Just thought I’d let you know that my prediction of £179 has already come true, and has been beaten by Tesco. The 160GB PS3 is £175 there (and that price is now matched by Amazon.co.uk). However, if you go through Quidco you can get £10 and 3% off, bringing the grand total to just £159! Utter madness to pay £135 for a repair now.

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Matthew

What I would advise is buying a new console, and then pay a 3rd party to fix the deceased one. Usually repairs run £40-£60 3rd party… you could then sell the fixed unit for around £120, which is £60 off the price of the new console, or keep it as a back up, or put it in a bedroom as a second machine.

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Joe

Sony uses a straight price because they don’t just replace the problemed part, they replace 3/4 of the whole machine! I know because Sony themselves told me. So You are getting basically a NEW machine….

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PlayStation4

The PS2 hardwork is practically never executed lol :D

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Lawrence

I similarily fell prey to the imfamous YLOD and opted to buy a new console instead. This then drew my attention to another frustrating issue. Every ps3 hard-drive is customer formatted so that it will only operate in that specific ps3. This meant that because I hadn’t baked up the drive (its 350gig I dont have a memory stick that large!) all my save data was lost. It is not possible to view, copy or convert the information stored on the hard-drive now that the console doesn’t boot.

I cant resolve this by having Sony repair the unit as they will only send a different, refurbed unit. Playstation do now offer a cloud service for saved games but this is only available to those paying for a premium online membership. I do miss the good old days of removable memory cards.

Yes, it’s a problem to keep an eye on – always back up your saves!

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Dale

Everyone should avoid Sony PS3, 4, 5 and any other console they sell. No one should be expected to buy consoles that are known to fail far too often, without a free replacement being offered. Sony will let you pay high prices for products that have very low lifespans now. Quality and Longevity are no longer in Sonys vocabulary or company ethos, avoid them. Buy a nice PC, Xbox360 or wait for Valves SteamBox.

Too many people stick behind Sony and really shouldn’t because they dont look after you as a customer. They take money over money over money from you without providing a better product or service.

Why listen to excuses of a Sony reps about why you have to pay them again for their inferior product that doesn’t last long enoughh for the cost, you can’t even put a lifespan on these machines because they brick too easily and too early.

In comparison to older systems (PS1 & PS2) Sony sold, that will still run today PS3 is very poor but in most cases was selling at much higher price than its predecessors yet breaks within 2-4 years. There is a major rip off taking place and people still stick up for them, it’s crazy. You should all stick together and tell them where to go, otherwise they’ll get away with it and kepp doing it.

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