MICROSOFT has recalled 14.1 million XBox game console power cords after customers reported that faulty units had caused minor burns and fire damage.
Robbie Bach, chief Xbox officer for Microsoft, said the recall covered all Xboxes made for continental Europe before Jan. 13, 2004, and units made for the rest of the world before Oct. 23, 2003.
Consoles built after those dates were designed in such a way that the failures no longer occurred, Mr Bach said.
"It ends up being a combination of both things in the box and circumstances," he said. "It did take us quite a bit of time to understand that there was a challenge."
The company declined to say who manufactured the defective units but said it was accepting responsibility for the problem. Microsoft also declined to comment on what the replacement program would cost the company, other than characterizing it as a "significant investment."
The recall represents a significant portion of the worldwide Xbox installed base of more than 20 million. Microsoft debuted the Xbox in November 2001 in the United States and subsequently rolled it out worldwide.
Based on reports to its customer service unit and warranty repair data, Bach said Microsoft had observed a failure rate of about 1 in 10,000 units.
In seven of those units, users reported suffering minor burns akin to briefly touching a hot iron. In 23 cases, users reported minor smoke damage or burns to a carpet or entertainment centre.
Affected customers can request a new power cord free of charge via the web site, Xbox.com, or by calling toll-free numbers in their respective countries.
Microsoft said customers would get replacement cords within 2-4 weeks from the time of order, and in the interim it advised users to turn off their Xboxes when not in use.
In March 2002, Japanese retailers temporarily stopped selling the console just weeks after its launch there because some machines were scratching discs. The company made an unconditional offer to replace hardware and any damaged software.
Mr Bach said some consoles on retail shelves in Japan and Korea were also affected by the electrical problem and Microsoft was working with retailers there to replace the cords in those units.
Microsoft is widely expected to release a successor to the Xbox this year. Rival and industry leader Sony is expected to launch the third version of its popular PlayStation console next year.
From Australian IT?Reuters