Scratched Discs Can Wreck a Rock Band

By Mike Musgrove
Sunday, November 25, 2007

The band broke up a lot earlier than I expected last weekend.

We were an all-girl band from Stockholm, called Buddha Cracka. I was the lead singer, a redhead named Debbi. A handful of my friends and I were rising stars on the Swedish rock scene for about two hours, before the disaster happened.

It wasn't the squabbles over the set list or over our look that did us in -- I blame Microsoft. Specifically, I think it was the Xbox 360, which appears to have cut a circular scratch into a video-game disc and left it unplayable after only about a day's worth of use.

Alas, the disc, for a game called Rock Band that was released last week, could be a victim of an alleged problem that has launched a few class-action lawsuits against Microsoft this year. Microsoft says it has not heard of other instances of scratched Rock Band discs.

Rock Band is the new offering from the creators of the first two smash-hit Guitar Hero games that takes the concept to its logical next step. Where those two games were made to appeal to the guitar-star wannabe, this one fills out the band by throwing in a game-controller drum kit and a USB microphone, in addition to the latest version of the guitar controller.

All told, the package, which is also available for the PlayStation 3, costs $170. Even at that price, the game's publisher, Electronic Arts, has said that it will have trouble producing enough to keep the game in stock this holiday season.

Music and rhythm-based games are a huge business for the video game industry this year, thanks to the success of Guitar Hero. Activision acquired the rights and issued the latest version of the game in October; it did $115 million in sales during its first week. Different versions of the game took four of the top 10 slots for the month, according to research firm NPD. Rock Band, by original Guitar Hero developer Harmonix, is another attempt to cash in on the trend.

Microsoft has had a number of tech-related headaches with the Xbox 360 game console, but the scratch issue was a new one to me.

A few lawsuits were filed separately this summer, alleging that the Xbox 360 console sometimes damages game discs. More recently, the plaintiffs -- from Florida, California, Georgia and Washington -- teamed up and filed a consolidated class-action suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle.

Jeffrey M. Ostrow, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., lawyer among those who filed the complaint, says his team has gotten thousands of reports from users about scratched discs. He came to the issue after one of his clients complained about the problem in passing. Later, Ostrow said, he noticed that some of the sports games in his personal video game collection had similar scratches.

Microsoft's lawyers filed a response to the consolidated complaint on Monday, denying that the system scratches discs during normal use.

"When the game console and the game discs are handled properly, the game disc should not scratch," said Molly O'Donnell, a spokeswoman for Microsoft. O'Donnell said the company has not received many complaints about scratched discs.

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