We've all been there. You're having a great time on your PS4, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch, when suddenly, your controller stops syncing. Or your system can't get online. Or worse, it stops turning on at all.
Desperate to get back to your game, you reach out to tech support. But how do you know whether you'll get the help you need, or be stuck on the phone all day? That's where we come in.
Taking a page from our sister site Laptop Mag's long-running Tech Support Showdown feature, we went undercover to evaluate how good Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are at troubleshooting your console troubles. The winner? Xbox.
Microsoft's robust range of help options and forward-looking features stood out above all other tech support we tested, though Nintendo and Sony weren't far behind. Read on to see how each company shook out.
|Overall Score (100)||Web Score (60)||Phone Score (40)||Avg Call Time (min:sec)||Phone Number||Phone Hours (ET)||Web Support|
|Xbox||90||60||30||7:59||1-800-469-9269||9 a.m.- 1 a.m. (Monday-Friday); 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. (Saturday)||Support Link (opens in new tab)|
|Nintendo||85||45||40||4:36||1 (800) 255-3700||9 a.m. - 10 p.m. (every day)||Support Link|
|PlayStation||82||45||37||9:26||1-800-345-7669||9 a.m. - 11 p.m. (Monday-Saturday); 10 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. (Sunday)||Support Link|
Xbox tech support reps delivered the most complete customer service experience of the big three, with great support via phone, social media and its own website.
It's the little things that really put Xbox on top, such as a callback option that keeps you from sitting on hold, an "Ask an Xbox Ambassador" feature that lets you reach out to the community, and the fact that, if you're having a game-specific issue, Microsoft will try to work with that developer to help you out.
Whether it's via online chat, phone or social media, Microsoft makes sure that gamers can get their problems solved in a timely manner.
And while Xbox Support is already great, Microsoft plans to take things even further by building a customer support feature right into the Xbox One itself.
Nintendo's help website is wonderfully robust, and the company's phone agents provided the fastest and most accurate help we got from any of the big three.
We were never on the phone for more than 5 minutes and were consistently connected to cheerful employees who had a good grasp on Nintendo's products.
All of Nintendo's phone agents were friendly, answered my questions in about 5 minutes, and, for the most part, exhibited a solid understanding of Nintendo products.
However, the Big N is pretty silent when it comes to solving problems over social media. Considering how easy it is to get help from Xbox and PlayStation with a quick tweet, Nintendo's lack of a dedicated support account on social media was a bit of a letdown.
Sony offers great tech support — as long as you're cool with calling them up.
While the house of PlayStation provided friendly and accurate help over the phone, it was so-so in getting us the help we needed on Twitter and the company's forums. Fortunately, the company's useful support database and online chat helped to make up for it.
PlayStation offers a wide variety of ways to reach out when you need help, but I'd strongly encourage you to go for its phone support over online methods.
How We Rate and Test
To put each console-maker to the test, we went undercover as everyday gamers still learning the ins and outs of their new hardware. Using each brand's online and phone-based support options, we sought answers to three questions each for the PS4, Xbox One and Switch.
We asked two common questions to each company: one about how to sync a controller to the console, and another about redownloading digital games that we had deleted. The third question was tailored to each console.
During our testing, we initiated three separate tech support calls for each company, and sought answers to our three questions on each company's website and social media accounts. We gave each console-maker a score out of 100: 60 points for online support (which includes official websites and social media) and 40 for phone support.
Nintendo was the clear winner on the phone, solving all of our problems accurately and in less than 5 minutes. Sony was no slouch, either, with friendly agents on both the phone and online.
But Microsoft ultimately prevailed, thanks to its superior web experience and no shortage of innovative customer support tools. Xbox might not be winning the console war right now in terms of sheer sales (that title goes to PlayStation), but its competitors could learn a thing or two from the company about how to keep console customers happy when things start breaking.
Illustration: Tom's Guide