Before Monday, André Weingarten figured he was out of luck. A devoted Xbox user from day one — he replaced two red-ringed 360s — Weingarten didn’t have a preorder down for the newest console. Then, lo and behold, Target had them in stock online. And then, incredibly, Weingarten had an Xbox One on his doorstep four days later.
“I went from panicking at not having one on Monday to getting it on Friday,” said Weingarten, a college freshman who lives in New York state.
Weingarten is the now-notorious “Moonlight Swami,” who last night captured his exploits with the Xbox One two weeks before its worldwide launch and then was banned — yes, banned-with-a-b banned, per a message over Xbox Live — after six hours of gametime.
However, it sounds like this episode will end well. Weingarten had an amicable chat with Larry Hryb — “Major Nelson,” the No. 1 community guy for Xbox Live — and was assured that the console ban is not permanent. Sometime before the Xbox One’s Nov. 22 launch, Weingarten’s console will go back online in good standing. Microsoft will also pull its copyright claim on Weingarten’s YouTube video of the console’s unboxing, which — along with a slew of Tweets — appeared to get him in so much trouble overnight.
And then Weingarten will attend the Xbox One’s gala launch event, as a guest of the company.
“Microsoft recognised that it was Target’s error and not mine,” Weingarten told me today. “They said a few days before launch I’ll be unbanned. I can’t go into too much detail but, basically [Major Nelson] says everything will be resolved. They’re inviting me to the Xbox One launch event.”
He couldn’t say where that will be, only that “they’ll make sure I get there.”
It all closes out a stressful 24 hours for Weingarten, who came home Friday evening to a package from Target, opened it and blink-blink-blinked at the Xbox One box inside. He rushed out to a local GameStop where he knew the staff. A lone copy of Call of Duty: Ghosts for Xbox One was on the shelf. There was no street date for selling it because, hell, nobody could play the thing yet, right? Weingarten bought it.
“They asked why I needed it already and I said, ‘I got it early,'” Weingarten recounted. Jaws dropped and Weingarten trundled home to play a game only 100 or so people, worldwide, are enjoying right now.
Then things start to get complicated.
After hooking up the Xbox One and powering it on, Weingarten was prompted to connect to his home Internet, and then set up his Kinect 2.0. There didn’t appear to be any way to back out of that. After connecting to the Internet the console began pulling down a 500-megabyte day-one update, which will be necessary to play games.
Weingarten pumped out a slew of Tweets describing what he was seeing — download sizes for games, shots of his friends list, even using a stopwatch to time how long it took to get to the console’s dashboard (17 seconds, for the record.) He filmed an unboxing and put that on YouTube, where he has 13,000 subscribers and his 1,000 videos have gathered more than 4 million views to date.
He played some Call of Duty: Ghosts. It’s a 39-gigabyte installation, Weingarten said. Xbox One will let you play games as they’re installing; Weingarten said Ghosts was playable at 51 per cent of its installation. It took about 15 minutes to get that far.
But then at 11:30 p.m., he got an email saying his unboxing video was pulled from YouTube on a copyright claim by Microsoft. “My channel had a copyright strike,” Weingarten said. These are particularly bad — three of them gets your account pulled. Weingarten makes a little bit of money off ad revenue through his YouTube channel — “more than minimum wage” he says, helping to pay his college bills. But, frankly, he was worried that a copyright strike would attract the attention of his college’s honour court. “They take the honour code around here very seriously,” he said.
By 2 a.m. Saturday, Weingarten was playing Ghosts when he noticed that he’d been logged out of Xbox Live. When he tried to log back in, he received a notice from the service.
“It said the console is banned,” Weingarten said. “‘This console is banned for violating the Xbox Live terms of service,’ and to please contact customer support.”
It was 2 a.m. He had a console no civilian in the world should have right now. Call customer service? Was anyone around? How would he begin to explain the situation?
Meantime his main Twitter account was thrown in “Twitter jail” for publishing too much. Weingarten provided updates through an alternate feed, but now it was feeling like the weight of Microsoft, YouTube and Twitter was collectively being brought to bear on him, simply for celebrating the good fortune of finding an Xbox One on his doorstep, 14 days before the rest of the world can get it.
“It felt like they were being overly protective and going about things in a way of, you know, guilty until proven innocent,” Weingarten said. “I was not really upset, I was just trying to deal with it all.”
Meanwhile Microsoft and Target were dealing with what appears to be a grade-A screwup. As of now, Xbox Live isn’t finished; anyone with a console who isn’t Microsoft is under a non-disclosure agreement. Sources told Kotaku that Target mailed out some 150 consoles as soon as they hit a distribution center.
This morning both companies acknowledged the early release. Microsoft said any users who already have the Xbox One “will be restricted from connecting to Xbox Live until closer to our launch date.” While Weingarten was able to get online long enough to download the day one Xbox Live update — which apparently is necessary to even play games — anyone else with an early console may not be able to do so.
Until he can reconnect to Xbox Live, Weingarten still has a usable machine — just not fully operational. “I can still play offline,” Weingarten said. “I can’t use any of the apps that require the Internet. It’s like a barebones version of the Xbox 360, because so many more things on Xbox One need the Internet.
“It’s kind of like going back to the original Xbox,” he said.
Finally, late Saturday afternoon, Weingarten took a call from Hryb. Major Nelson, at an Xbox One event in Scottsdale, Ariz., called to explain what had happened and why. Weingarten wouldn’t comment on some of the conversation, saying he’d been asked not to reveal particulars. The bottom line sounds like Microsoft felt compelled to act to keep a work-in-progress Xbox Live for Xbox One from going public, while smoothing things out with a longtime fan who himself had done nothing wrong and was, in fact, celebrating what he was seeing.
“I was telling people earlier today that just because this happened to me does not mean you guys should rob yourselves of a good time,” Weingarten said. “The console is incredible. It would be a shame if you guys missed out on it.”
The YouTube sanction was more troubling to Weingarten but that appears to be smoothed over, too. He said he was told his unboxing video will be allowed to go back up shortly before the console’s Nov. 22 launch, meaning the “copyright strike” will be pulled. It also means he’ll have the first unboxing video — and the advertising money that goes along with it.
For most of the next two weeks, though, Weingarten’s Xbox One will remain disabled. Some features work — he can still put the Call of Duty: Ghosts disc in and play the game’s campaign mode.
He’ll have two weeks to play with the Xbox One. He just won’t be able to play with anyone else. Or tell them about it.