Microsoft promises new Xboxes to XGD3 casualties

Microsoft is due to launch a new disc format for its Xbox 360 console tomorrow - and has promised those whose consoles fail to support the new format a shiny new replacement for their troubles.

With developers starting to hit the limits of the Xbox 360's DVD media - Rockstar recently bemoaned having to spread its latest game L.A. Noire across multiple discs on the Xbox, while the Blu-ray based PlayStation 3 needed only one - Microsoft is to introduce a new disc format, known as XGD3.

While physically the same as a standard DVD, the XGD3 format allows Microsoft to cram an extra gigabyte of data onto each disc - not a huge amount, it's true, but enough to keep developers happy for a few months.

A dashboard update is due to start rolling out tomorrow in order to add support for the new format to older consoles by upgrading the firmware in the optical drive - but some users have reported receiving messages from Microsoft telling them their consoles won't support the update.

Rather than leave those with older devices in the lurch, however, Microsoft has announced that it will be providing them with a replacement - in the form of a top-of-the-line Xbox 360 S with 250GB hard drive.

"Following a recent update to our system software, we have become aware of an issue that is preventing a very small number of Xbox 360 owners from playing retail game discs," a Microsoft spokesperson admitted to thinq_.

"We are able to detect this issue over Xbox LIVE," the spokesperson said, "and are proactively reaching out to customers that may be impacted to replace their console." Microsoft is also asking those who receive error messages saying that a disc is 'unsupported' after the update contact their support department for assistance.

The company claims that only a very small number of consoles are affected - which is, presumably, why it is being so terribly generous to the users who are inconvenienced by the update.

For some, however, the update will bring bad news: the company has also confirmed that the upgrade will detect consoles that have had their optical drives 'flashed' in order to play pirated games and undo the hack - meaning pirates will find their precious 'backups' cease to work.

Those who choose not to accept the dashboard update to preserve their piratical potential will find that they are unable to connect to Xbox Live until the update is installed, the company confirmed.

UPDATE 19/05/2011:

Microsoft has been in touch to clarify matters, claiming that the flaws leading to the replacement programme are related to an earlier update, and not the one rolling out from today. Sadly, it was unable to provide details of the reasons behind the failure or precisely which models of Xbox 360s are affected. "We are not disclosing the details of the issue," a spokesperson told us, "as it impacts a sub-system intended to thwart the use of counterfeit games"