I Got Thrown In Microsoft ‘Jail’ For Taking Pictures Of Nothing

I Got Thrown In Microsoft ‘Jail’ For Taking Pictures Of Nothing

There are a lot of secrets that come with a brand new console. Last night at the Forza 5 event Microsoft pulled me aside for taking a picture of a cabinet and a laptop. And, interestingly, I wasn’t even violating any rules because, conveniently, no photo rules were stated. Still, I’ll never have those 10 minutes back.

Here’s what happened: I was at the Forza 5 event in downtown LA, having just come from the quick briefing on the game back at E3. During the briefing, we were told no video, but photos were fine. Ok, great. I took photos, listened to the pitch, had a free gin and tonic. So far so good.

Then, I drive over to the ‘event’ — essentially a party where you could actually play the game, eat fancy hot dogs off of trays carried by aspiring actresses, guzzle free booze, and watch hundreds of other freeloaders do the same. This is a pretty normal thing for these sorts of big releases.

At the event, there were people shooting video and taking pictures william-nilliam. No photo policy was stated, expressed, posted, or anything. I just want all that to be clear so the rest of this makes sense.

So, after being at the party a while, getting my chance to try the game, chasing down the girl with the fancy hot dog tray and drinking more gin, I began to wonder about what they were running all these demos on, since I didn’t see a single Xbox One. All the wires just led under tables and into cabinets.

So, they were hiding the actual hardware, which I figured was probably some dev Xbox One units or something. And I’m curious. I wondered what these units looked like, so I decided to peek behind one of the cabinets. It was dark, so I took a couple quick photos with my flash so I could see.

What I saw was profoundly underwhelming. Just a laptop and a bunch of wires. I was just about to forget about the pictures entirely and find the guy who walked by with the raw tuna somethings when a massive goon packed into a fancy suit approached me.

“You need to come with me, sir,” he said.

Those are never good words to hear. Unless they’re followed by “Your dog just gave birth to puppies that crap $20s!”

The goon led me to a small enclosure in the corner; a little room made up of dividers and filled with travel cases and a few people on laptops. But you could tell by the haunted looks of the people there that this was serious business. Microsoft jail.

The MicroSlammer. Hotjail. You get the idea. Microsoft jail changes you, I can tell you that. The standing, the (relatively short) waiting, the cold metal of the travel case against your back, the mild sense of trouble — those are the things that haunt a man in his dreams years later.

As the guard stood outside to keep me from freaking out and making a run for it, a couple of Microsoft PR folks came in, large forced smiles on their faces. They just wanted to talk to me.

I figured it was about the photos, so I showed them my camera and told them if it was a problem, I could delete them, because, really, I don’t care. It’s just a laptop and a bunch of wires.

They made a big point of telling me that they were not telling me to delete the photos. That’s because they really couldn’t, since they never said what could or couldn’t be photos. But they also didn’t want me to leave that little room with those photos.

It was weird. They were clearly unhappy and concerned, even though they insisted that laptop was just controlling a looping video. Which it certainly may have been doing, which makes it even weirder that they were so upset at the photos.

Not being able to take their intense stares and restrained desire to yank the camera out of my hands any longer, I just deleted the photos. They then set me free.

I went back out into the party, bemused and found fellow auto-journo Blake Z. Rong, and told him what happened. As I was talking to him, I found I had one photo undeleted on my camera, so I showed him the big nothing all the fuss was about.

And then one of the PR reps appeared out of nowhere, hurt and confused at my betrayal. I assured him I really, really didn’t care about their super-secret laptop, and probably wasn’t going to reverse-engineer an XBox One from it, but this time I just gave them my camera and let them delete the photo.

So here’s a drawing of the photo instead, with absolutely everything the photo had: a laptop, some wires, and the inside of a cabinet. Have at it, reverse-engineers. It’s all you need. Maybe it’s a development system in laptop form, maybe it’s a laptop emulating the hardware, maybe it’s really just playing looping video. Who knows?

All I know is that this is a wildly important image that Microsoft must not allow to see the light


  • Ita been widely reported that that the Xbone games were playing on Windows 7 pc;s powered by Nvidia video cards, I guess this why the MS reps were concerned.

    • That’s not really unusual, though – the console isn’t out yet, so it’s not like they’d have production versions of the console to run on. They’d basically be dev kits. Wouldn’t surprise me if PS4 games were running on dev kits, too.

      • What he means is, AMD is the supplier of all APU’s for the Xbone and PS4.

        If Microsoft was playing an Xbone game, on a laptop that was using Nvidia software, it could be in breach of their agreement, or at the least cause some friction.

      • Na mate, they had pictures of Xbox One games being played on Windows 7 Computers. They had the games on the screen and had the Computer in the Cabinet under the TV Screen.

        Then their were pictures of People playing PS4 games with a PS4 connected to the TV, but the PS4 was closed off of coarse.

        It’s funny cause the PS4 games looked better then the Xbone games that were running on Windows 7.
        Then it raises the question, why didn’t Microsoft play the games on Windows 8, and don’t they trust the Xbone enough to play it at a Live event while Sony was playing all their games on the PS4.

        • Hmm that is odd. Although I’m not sure how taking a photo of a PC would give too many clues as to what OS it was running or what video card it had inside, so I still don’t really understand the reaction to the taking of the photos.

          • The reaction is that they’re running the games on hardware that the actual console doesn’t and won’t have. They might not have production versions of the console yet but they have basically finalised the hardware it will use, so the PC could at least be using some of that hardware, not a video card from the big competitor. I read somewhere that someone was playing a game and it crashed, falling back to a Windows 7 desktop with HP’s customisation. There could be a legit reason but seeing that happen does not give off a good impression at all; we all know what the media is like.

    • I don’t think that is entirely accurate, the picture doesn’t show anything other than a PC running Windows 7. There was a thread on Reddit with a guy claiming he was in that room and that PC was actually running the digital signage around that section, when the guy had the cabinet opened, he had switched a KVM or something similar to get the display on the screen to troubleshoot… I’ll see if I can find the thread…

      • Apparently a lot of keen eyed people have been saying that the graphics card were Nvidia 700 series cards, which is odd, since most of the parts in the actual console are manufactured by AMD (including the GPU).

        • I’ve also read that! While it wouldn’t be impossible to run on Nvidia hardware as the Xbone is DirectX 11 it wouldn’t really make any sense would it?

  • How good would a hacked shell version of the XBONE OS running on PC be!

    Yeah, it would destroy X1 sales but eh

  • So you were drink driving, eating free food and drinking free booze, and then decided to look at something you clearly weren’t supposed to (judging by the fact it was hidden), and you expect sympathy or us to be on your side just because it’s Microsoft? Yet another pointless article. This isn’t your personal blog. They should’ve kicked your ass out. Being invited to those events is a privilege.

  • Rerunning articles now? The amount of Xbox 1 story’s you are running is way over the top.

  • If this story is true, then you have every right to sue Microsoft for false imprisonment and for forcing you to destroy your own intellectual property in order to escape from false imprisonment.

    Even if they didn’t give you permission to take photos, they can’t legally stop you, nor do they own any of the photos you take. At most they can ask you to leave (which is the opposite of what they did).

    Is is a serious breach of your rights to prevent you from leaving anywhere without your consent. Microsoft and their private security are not the police. They have no power to detain you. As well as giving you a right to damages, it is potentially a criminal offence.

    You should sue them.

    • In Australia, at least, it’s called ‘Deprivation of Liberty’ and one of the first things security guards are trained in when they do their Cert II is that you are never, ever, ever to allow someone to believe that they are being detained against their will without actually being ‘arrested’. (Civilian version of arresting under Section 2 of the Criminal Code is ‘Lawful Arrest Without Warrant’ – only permitted in the case where you physically observe someone committing a crime. And even then, I’m a little fuzzy but I think it has to be an indictable offense, too. And you only detain them as long as it takes for the police to arrive and commit their own arrest.)

      The reason they focus on it so heavily is because if someone can reasonably be expected to believe that they are being detained against their will and it doesn’t lead to an arrest, they can charge with deprivation of liberty. That can be as simple as being kept in an office and told they can’t leave, or even if they’re not told they can’t leave, having a security officer standing between them and the door. If verbal/non-verbal communication leads you to believe you are being arrested, you actually are. And if it’s wrongful, that’s the deprivation.

      And if you deprive someone of liberty, it’s basically a step down from kidnapping. The penalty can include years of jail time, fines ($50k+) and penalties for the organization you serve with. Civil suits can be brought on the back of the criminal conviction, and can still be brought even without conviction (though it hurts the case if there is no conviction).

      It’s a really, really, really big deal. It’s much easier to ban someone from a store than it is to hold them for shoplifting.

      Know your rights.

      • I’m in Australia – it’s called “false imprisonment” in a civil context here, and whether there has been a criminal conviction or not is not really relevant.

        Otherwise I agree with your post. Not long ago someone got $20k-ish in damages because a security guard at a supermarket here prevented them from leaving.

  • Microsoft jail is easy to escape due to the fact that the guards only check on you every 24 hours.

  • That’s really weird and, well, I question the legality of it all. If police are not allowed to ask or force you to remove photos or movie of them, then how can Microsoft? Especially when there was nothing stating otherwise. Perhaps it’s because it was private property but still, it seems a bit legally grey.

    • They would have been able to ask him to leave, or call the police to remove him if he refused to leave – but they couldn’t imprison him or delete the photos because he didn’t do anything illegal.

      Even if they had a sign up saying “no photos” they still couldn’t have done anything except ask him to leave because putting up random signs doesn’t make them law.

    • They could refuse to let him or anyone from his employer attend any future events though. That would probably be enough for a journalist from a company with a games web site to comply.

  • Haha awesome article. Loved it. The experience you talk of when they can’t say yes or no and are indicting they want you to delete the photos sounds very dealing with salesperson experience. Like something from the simpsons.

  • Maybe because the xbone (and ps4) are basically running pc hardware and they want people to think their DRMed to hell console is more powerful than it really is?

  • maybe it’s the dark secret of the Xbone that everyone’s going to go apeshit over: The Xbone transforms into a laptop and also a helper monkey called Mojo.

    @hydroleks comment got my Simpsons brain ticking over

  • We’re not telling you to delete the photos….but we can’t let you leave this room without them…Knowing me in my stubborness, I would have sat in that room till the end of the night just to be a jerk. I honestly would have been happy to delete the photos anyway if they asked me to but holding me against my will like that would have annoyed me just enough to resort to being petty. Sure that means no free drinks or hot dogs but meh. Having me being annoying lingering in the back of their minds is good enough.

    • I’d probably be the same. But, having worked in a company I can say that doing the ‘dance’ around rules in order to keep your bosses happy isn’t always a fun thing to do. If it was this PC/Xbone controversy then they couldn’t have said anything directly without opening up a can of worms, but they couldn’t let him leave with those photographs/potential looped movie without opening up an even bigger can (which already has happened).

    • Technically, they couldn’t hold him against his will, though they could ask him to leave and escort him off the premesis. Even in America, being detained by a non-government entity is against the law.

    • Sorry for the double post, my messages werent coming through so I tried posting as a guest.

  • I might be pointing out the bleeding obvious here, but just because you’ve clicked the delete button on your camera that doesn’t mean that those photos have actually been deleted off the card (unless you then took a bunch more photos). Simple free software such as PC Inspector Smart Recovery will scan the card and get them back (if the “deleted” data hasn’t been overwritten yet).

    Just smile happily, delete everything like you’re a great guy, and put the card in your pocket for later retrieval.

    Note – never, never let your girlfriend(s) in on this information.

  • Hahaha. That’s funny. You know they have no legal right to arrest you right?

    Man you got your rights trampled on something fierce.

    I don’t know why I find that funny, I just find this whole ‘free junket for game journos’ thing kinda ridiculous. And they detain you for a photo! Legally all they can do is eject you from the premises. That’s the only power security guards have.

  • If you’re not allowed to take photos of things, then bloody well put up a sign saying that. I’ve had a similar situation before and it’s ridiculous, Microsoft has done how many thousands of press events before? A simple “please don’t take photos of equipment” sign at the front door is enough…

  • Why would you let them intimidate you like that? NONE of them have a right to deprive you of your liberty or indirectly make you delete your photos? I would have told them that I’d be calling the police for depriving me of my right to liberty and intimidation. You were under no obligation to comply and should have taken a stand.

    This is disgusting behaviour being displayed by Microsoft. If I hadn’t already decided a month ago there was no way I’d be buying their worthless Spybox, this would give me a reason purely on principle. Who the hell do they think they think they are? Sue them. What a bunch of arrogant twats.

    With how they’ve been behaving you’d think they want to be despised. Urgh horrible company.

  • Slowtaku, at it again! Why not investigate this yourselves, as opposed to reposting someone else’s article from a week or so ago. Stop slavering on Micro$oft’s dong and take a bias already.

  • Seems like Microsoft is doing a bit of a bait and switch. In the Battlefield 4 part of the conference, at certain parts of the game there’s a prompt which displays the Backspace button to go to Battlelog.

    Something fishy is going on.

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