UPDATE (7:12pm): Well now here's an interesting addendum.
Earlier today, following a number of video leaks from a wide-scale beta test of the upcoming Gears of War remake, the game testing company VMC said in a memo that Microsoft had both permanently banned the leakers from Xbox Live and temporarily disabled their consoles, rendering them useless. Said VMC: "Microsoft also permanently disabled their Xbox LIVE accounts (as well as other suspected accounts present on their Xbox One kits) and temporarily blocked all of their Xbox One privileges -- meaning that for a period of time which Microsoft decides on depending on the severity of the offence, their Xbox One is entirely unusable."
However, in a statement sent to Kotaku this evening, Microsoft denied VMC's claims, saying that in fact the leakers' consoles are still usable offline.
Microsoft would not expand upon this statement, clear up VMC's comments, or clarify as to whether they actually have the ability to render consoles totally unusable. Of course, the Xbox One is crippled without access to Xbox Live: offline players are unable to download patches -- even those required to play certain games -- or access online-only games like Destiny. But there's a big difference between what VMC claimed and what Microsoft is now saying.
In the wake of Microsoft's new statement, we've changed this story's headline. It originally read "Microsoft Punishes Gears Leakers By (Temporarily) Bricking Xbox Ones."
Original story follows:
Did you know that Microsoft has the ability to turn purchased Xbox Ones into bricks? Some people are about to find out the hard way very soon.
Over the past couple of days, testers for a contracting company called VMC Games have been leaking out videos from their current project, the upcoming (unannounced) Gears of War remake for Xbox One. As you might expect, neither VMC nor Microsoft is pleased about these videos, and today, the two companies came down hard, telling testers in an email that the leakers have been banned from VMC's program and will lose access to their Xbox Ones entirely for a period of time to be determined by Microsoft in the future.
Yep, according to VMC, Microsoft has both permanently banned those leakers' Xbox Live accounts and temporarily made their Xbox Ones totally unusable. If you didn't think Microsoft had this power, you're not alone. The digital present is scary. (To be clear: VMC contractors tell us they use their personal consoles for testing, not any sort of debug machines provided by the company.)
Here's the entire email, obtained by Kotaku this afternoon (emphasis mine):
In the light of recent events, we'd like to bring a situation to the community's attention in attempts to strengthened everyone's awareness and vigilance regarding the NDA which binds every single one of you to VMC.
Recently, multiple leaks were perpetrated by several GBTN community members. In one case, a member who was participating in that test shared a screenshot on Snapchat with their friend, who wasn't part of the project, but tricked his friend by saying he didn't believe him when he said they were working on the same project. Upon reception of the screenshot, the friend who received the Snapchat leaked it online, betraying his friend as well as his NDA with VMC Games. While the tester who first took the screenshot didn't think he was doing anything bad, he was still going against the NDA, and was part of the cause why the information got leaked. Because of this, both members were permanently removed from the community and addressed to our legal department, as per the terms of the NDA.
Now, new wording is about to reach the community regarding this particular event. The nature of the leak having had occurred through Xbox One, actually also went against the Microsoft EULA, which is agreed upon when creating an Xbox LIVE account, or any other type of Microsoft account. This being said, as per that agreement with the testers in fault, Microsoft also permanently disabled their Xbox LIVE accounts (as well as other suspected accounts present on their Xbox One kits) and temporarily blocked all of their Xbox One privileges -- meaning that for a period of time which Microsoft decides on depending on the severity of the offence, their Xbox One is entirely unusable.
The reason behind the Non-Disclosure Agreement is not only to protect our clients and our program, but also our community, and to make each and every single one of you aware of the severity of revealing confidential information which you're entrusted with. One screenshot, message or even conversation shared with someone else can easily snowball into a situation that goes out of control, and not only penalise the offender as well as anyone else directly involved, but sometimes far beyond that. In certain cases, there were consequences which had affected people which had no malicious intentions but ended up entwined within the legal case - we're fully aware that this also targeted very faithful, hard workers who had been with us from the start, and this situation crippled the entire community. We do not want to go that way ever again and are constantly in search of better solutions to single out perpetrators before too much is at risk. The community itself is growing stronger, and often times leaks are reported by community members to us -- and we're extremely thankful for that as it not only speeds up investigations drastically, but also shows us that this community is tightly knit and merely contains a few bad apples, who unfortunately ruin the experience for too many participants already.
We would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that this is a community. Your actions and behaviour reflect on each other as well as on us, and acting selfishly has the potential to ruin the experience to everyone. Please be mindful of others throughout your actions.
Global Beta Test Network