Quantum Break’s Microsoft Product Placement Is Killing Me

Quantum Break’s Microsoft Product Placement Is Killing Me

Recently released for Xbox One and Windows PC, Quantum Break combines a video game and a live-action television series to create an entirely new way to advertise Microsoft Surface Tablets and Windows Phones.

Intrigued by Totilo’s review and finding myself with some spare time and the PC version of Remedy Entertainment’s mixed media adventure, I started up Quantum Break at around 8pm this past Wednesday evening and kept playing until around 4am, when a particularly difficult fight finally defeated my tired mind.

I enjoyed the game immensely. I found the third-person shooting with time manipulation mechanics enjoyable enough that I looked forward to battles. The television show portion of the game is well-acted and the plot compelling. Either one of the two alone might have been too much, but the two compliment each other nicely. So far Quantum Break is one of my favourite games of the year. It’s definitely my favourite extended play advertisement for Microsoft products.

The screen generally goes dark when raised to your face in a call like this, but how would you know it was a Windows Phone then?

The screen generally goes dark when raised to your face in a call like this, but then how would you know it was a Windows Phone?

The game opens as Jack Joyce, portrayed by Shawn “Not Aaron, The Other One” Ashmore, arrives at Riverport University at the behest of his best friend, Littlefinger. As the campus sprawls out before him, Jack receives a call from his friend on his Windows Phone. Thanks to the crystal clear audio quality of the Windows Phone, Littlefinger is able to guide his friend to the research lab, where a top secret project is underway.

I’m surprised they have traditional phones on their desks, what with how convenient and versatile the Windows Phone is.

I’m surprised they have traditional phones on their desks, what with how convenient and versatile the Windows Phone is.

Cutting-edge science requires cutting-edge technology, like the Microsoft Surface. It’s a Windows 10 computer and a laptop all in one. No desk at a top secret research project should be without one.

But not even the computing power of the Microsoft Surface can stop time from breaking. The campus is thrown into chaos. Firefights break out. People are killed. Secret powers are revealed. I almost completely forgot about Microsoft products in all of the excitement.

But then the first live-action segment drew me right back in.

Liam Burke, played by the hunky Patrick Heusinger, realises he’s missed several calls from his wife while on Monarch Corporation business.

Note the thumbs in the “what am I supposed to do with this thing?” position.

While Liam rushes home to attend his wife we meet Charlie Wincott, computer hacker extraordinaire. He’s my favourite character in the show/game, thanks in part to a relatively nuanced performance by Marshall Allman. Mostly I was just jealous of the bank of five Microsoft Surface tablets lined up on his desk.

Five Microsoft Surface tablets? Who needs that much pure computing power? Charlie Wincott, that’s who.

Five Microsoft Surface tablets? Who needs that much pure computing power? Charlie Wincott, that’s who.

Back at Liam’s house a moment of romance is ruined by a call from the office, signified by the distinctive warbling of a Windows Phone.

“You have no idea how to use that, do you?”

As Liam heads to his car, time stops. The world freezes, save for one man. We cut to Littlefinger in his secret warehouse base. It’s sparsely techorated, but everything he needs is one the table before him.

“One of the folks in marketing brought an iPhone to work today.” “I see. Have them killed quietly offscreen.”

You get the idea. This is how my experience with Quantum Break played out. Just when I began to lose myself in the story or the action or the acting a bit of obvious Microsoft product placement would pop up to pull me out of it.

I don’t generally mind product placement in video games. If I’m playing a game set in the modern era I would much rather see people using the same items I use in real life than generic equivalents. Someone’s going to drink a Mountain Dew or eat a Big Mac or turn on a Panasonic television.

But if every beverage in a game is Mountain Dew, every meal from McDonald’s and every piece of equipment from a single technology company, then the façade starts to crumble.

I love Surface tablets. I lost one last year in a move and have been bemoaning the loss ever since. It’s a fine product. But telling me a company so advanced that they have invented time travel is passing out Surface tablets to all of its employees? That’s just silly. It’s one of the main reasons I had trouble getting into the television series Arrow during season one — it was lousy with Surface tablets.

And I’ve used a Windows Phone in the past. Briefly, as none of the apps I needed for work at the time were available on it, but I enjoyed the concept and aesthetic. Seeing one in the wild is charming. An entire cast of characters rocking Windows Phones is less believable than time being broken. At one point Charlie Wincott plugs one into a door lock to hack it. I laughed for minutes.

The whole thing comes to a head in the GIF atop this article. Littlefinger is looking at important information on a Microsoft Surface tablet when time freezes. He lets go of the tablet in the middle of the time distortion and walks off, and we’re treated to around six seconds of hovering Surface tablet.

FINE I WILL BUY A SURFACE PRO TABLET. JUST MAKE IT STOP. (I can’t afford a Surface Pro tablet, but the game doesn’t know that. Shhh.)

I still enjoy Quantum Break, and have every intention of going back in and completing that final fight. Then I’ll go back and explore other paths in the game’s branching story, partly to see how the story unfolds, but mostly to see how many more Microsoft products they have stuffed into this thing.


  • It’s all based in an alternative universe where the main difference is that Windows phone is actually good.

    • I remember being slightly weirded out by everyone using Windows phones and tablets and stuff in Arrow too.

      Quantum Break & Arrow are the same parallel universe?!

      • There are Nissans in the game and tge canera angles so you can clearly see the logi front and centre

    • Still is good. In fact I’d wager its the best phone OS, and a great choice if you don’t need a specific app.

    • Windows Phone is great, as long as you don’t need or expect apps. If Windows Phone was at app parity, I wouldn’t consider the other two.

  • What else is there though? It’s the same with the Powers tv show on PSN, if there wasn’t a Sony product strategically placed in every scene, I just couldn’t continue watching.

  • I agree that product placement when jammed in your face would be annoying. However I would kind of agree with the fact that they are all using the same device from an IT perspective. If everyone has a Surface or one type of phone you only have to diagnose problems for that type etc. (it is like companies using only iPhones as the company mobile, which is more accepted as it is probably more true to life). So as much as it is product placement, it is also just smart business decision in terms of IT infrastructure (would you be annoyed if every workstation was a dell or HP?)

    This of course does not take into account keeping the product on screen longer than necessary to make sure you know what product it is 😛

  • OK maybe I am missing something here, maybe I am biased but it is a game released by Microsoft, why would they advertise or promote apple or android? sure they could have been a little more loose around the pc’s given it is the operating system that shines there, but why would they promote anything other than a Micorsoftverse item, they wouldn’t have to buy anything because they would be lying around.
    The phone though intrigues me in the picture above, their flagship phones the 950 and 950xl have curved corners, so they aren’t advertising their best they can offer phone.
    a 650 or 550 would be selling themselves short.
    at least you know this is a Microsoft production, unlike movies and television shows where you know money was exchanged for whatever companies logo to be seen on the screen.
    A movie or show where everything shows the Appleverse would be just as scary.

    • OK maybe I am missing something here, maybe I am biased but it is a game released by Microsoft, why would they advertise or promote apple or android?

      Because a lot of shows/games don’t have to promote anything, Except maybe y’know characters and plot! I’d much rather just watch a show where characters (when they actually need to) just use a phone, or use a tablet or computer and not have literal camera close-ups and dialogue about it.

  • It just becomes an issue if it becomes a little unbelievable. In this instance everyone is using Windows phones and tablets. Literally everyone. And they just keep pulling them out for no reason. You can understand when they don’t want to show any non-Microsoft products but then just don’t the phone out every scene.

    Everyone does it though. I remember watching shows like Lucifer and thinking “If I was a top police agency or spy agency, would I really encourage my staff to use a Windows Tablet as their main computer?”

  • Over saturation or Michael Bay levels of product placement make you wuestion the “artistic value ” but its also the opposite for me when I see them use a dodgey looking faje or shoddingly cover up a product logo in a shot.

    That said Microsft paid for it, its fair for them to raid the store front for props… over saturating though bad…putting third party product placements Terrible!

  • I honestly didn’t notice during my play through. I think I was too engrossed in the game play/story to notice.

  • With all the promotion, you would think they’d invest more in to supporting their platforms. Because it like they don’t care enough to invest more than the bare minimum.

  • Wow this must be the first TV show you’ve ever seen!

    Product placement in TV shows is rife, but I guess no-one normally complains as it’s usually apple products that every single person in the show uses.

    At least this sounds like they’re trying to use the device to convey plot (i.e. showing what’s on the screen of the device), normally most TV shows have to show you the back of the device that the person is using (otherwise how else would you see the apple logo?!)

    • The whole point is that Microsoft mobile products are not prolific in real life so over saturation of them is noticeably jarring.

      • Maybe don’t watch The Walking Dead, zombies aren’t that prolific in real life so you may find them a bit jarring…

  • Wow. Most of that is no big deal.
    Using a windows OS phone? Who cares? They have to show some sort of UI, why not windows? Unless focuses on the device like the first gif, or uses the name of the product unnecessarily its not a big deal.

    • It’s the ubiquity and frequency of it. Maybe it’s just me but these days it just isn’t enough that a product is in the show, but that attention is brought to it. Like, they don’t have to show some UI every time. Calling a phone? It’s on their face. Texting? How about some speech bubbles or voice over.

  • I think your taking it way out of proportion. So, they should make fake ui’s ala 90s film for every IT action? Or use a resource which is already readily available, and which translates well to screen due to its big ass UI.

  • You can tell they’ve been making it for a while, given all the phones are Nokia.

    Also don’t forget the fact it’s a giant Nissan and VAG advert either. I haven’t seen a car that isn’t Nissan, VW or Audi.

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