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The PS4 was once labeled as having a failure rate of just 0.4%. That was a week ago. One week later and the system now has a failure rate of just under 1%. With more than a million units shipped in North America, that brings the tally of defective units close to 10,000.
The failure rate update comes courtesy of The Washington Post, where Sony representative Dan Race told them that the PS4's failure rate was just under 1% and that the console's hiccups are...
"...within the expected range for a new product introduction." … "There have been several issues reported, which leads us to believe there isn't a singular problem that could impact a broader percentage of PS4 units,"
While 1% is still better than the Xbox 360's RROD issue that saw a launch of 3% failure rate right off the bat, it still leaves some gamers to believe that many of the defective units – arriving dead at the homes of Amazon purchasers – is Sony's fault. Additionally, some believe that the system is just built with defective parts, similar to the Xbox 360's RROD issue. However, only a small percentage of individuals out of the million units that have shipped have publicly voiced their problems with the PS4, mostly with disgruntled one-star reviews on Amazon.
Some pundits blamed Sony for not being more thorough with their second and third tier quality assurance testing, similar to what Apple does – which is how they weeded out more than 5 million faulty units they eventually had sent back to Foxconn, as reported by The Consumerist.
While Sony is desperately trying to fix the problem with the PS4s, there's another side to the blame-coin.
There are running rumors of worker sabotage on the assembly line. This has taken on a life of its own but hasn't really reared any reasonable forms of information from official sources. The closest bit of information we've had from Sony regarding the matter was reported by PS4 Daily, where Shuhei Yoshida, Sony's worldwide studio boss, simply said that...
“Be assured we are investigating reported PS4 issues. The number is very small compared to shipped, we believe they are isolated incidents.”
Across majority of the forum threads and aggregators, many gamers have become equally dismissive of any foul play on the assembly lines. It's not hard to see the word “sabotage” and think “tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist!”. But at the same time, a lot of these allegations are fueled from some disturbing instances that have occurred over the past couple of months at the Foxconn plants where the PlayStation 4 is being assembled.
Workers lacing a batch of the thermal paste with trace amounts of lead has been scoffed at, just the same as students “spitting on the motherboard” was labeled as ludicrous.
However, Foxconn has a deal with the local school districts to recruit and use the students on assembly lines, gluing together parts and even running inspection of finished products, as reported by Quartz. Foxconn is now using a referral program, paying schools to solicit their students to become a part of their work force because workers wise to Foxconn's schemes have decided to avoid the company.
Foxconn's school solicitation was further corroborated by a student intern who briefly worked at the Yantai factory in China, between August and September of this year, where he mentioned that teachers were under immense duress to get students to voluntarily sign up and work for Foxconn during their high-production periods. Of course, students can decline to work at Foxconn, but they lose credits necessary to graduate and don't receive their diploma.
If you're thinking that many of these students are required to get internships at these businesses because they're going into the field of electronics and manufacturing, think again. As reported by the Huffington Post (amongst countless others), many students who have no interest or long-term educational goals in the electronics field are still coerced into working the assembly line at Foxconn. Apparently applying thermal paste to the APU on a motherboard is equivalent to maintaining the books as a financial accountant.
Funnily enough, Boraid had previously reported that Foxconn was suffering a “Prisoner's Dilemma”, since workers no longer want to support the company for their inhumane mistreatment of employees. The shortage of workers has driven Foxconn to pillage the local schools for student interns – interns who work the same hours as the veteran workers, but at half or sometimes none of the standard wages.
Worse yet is that the students are subjected to harsh conditions, including working double 12 hour shifts with two hour breaks. Those on the Baidu forum and other social networks came forward to talk about just how harsh some of these conditions are, including standing for long hours of the day and sometimes bleeding from the cuts and scraps of working the assembly line all day.
Things continued to go downhill for some students, as it was noted by a floor manager in a Tiebu discussion that the conditions at Foxconn are especially hard on the young female interns; sometimes causing pre-menstral bleeding due to hard hours and stress of meeting production deadlines. These issues were escalated during late September, according to a former intern, since Sony had requested for Foxconn to ramp up production in order to meet the estimated holiday quotas.
Diary excerpts of a depressing nature surfaced on sites like Sina Finance, where you can read about what some of the daily routines were like for the 5,000 or so students who trudged through the 12 through 24 hour shifts; there were many reports of students fainting on the pipeline from a lack of rest, a lack of eating, were sick or were as “depressed" as the rainy "weather”.
If that wasn't bad enough, there were multiple reports of some of the female interns being raped on site at the Foxconn plant, as outlined in a horrifyingly detailed article on Games QQ from back in October. Of course, the hospitals downplayed the rape incidents to the local police as just “rumors”.
A Foxconn employee recently tried to calm the masses by saying that very few of the PS4 units fail to pass inspection and that he hasn't encountered any foul play at the Yantai plant in China, and tried dismissing any claims of sabotage or intern upheaval.
Right now there's just the words of tetchy students who have been put through some unpleasant ordeals while supposedly becoming “educated” in a real world working environment, and the loose language of corporate overseers trying to make this all go away.
On the upside, there are only 10% of Xbox One units being made at Foxconn, as reported by Digitimes.
If what Electronic Arts says is true about Sony and Microsoft shipping 10 million units by March, 2014, then that would mean that out of the 5 million or so Xbox One SKUs shipped within the quarter, more than 500,000 units are still in the hands of mistreated Foxconn interns.
I guess we'll find out if Microsoft suffers the same fate as Sony when the console launches this weekend. I, at least, have to give Microsoft credit for offloading majority of their load to Flextronics, as opposed to putting the brunt of their production needs (and money) into the hands Foxconn. It's not perfect, but it's a step in the right direction.