Footage of the Gears of War remaster currently in production leaked this week. Microsoft took swift action as a result, banning and suspending the accounts and consoles of the people who broke NDA.
When you sign up to be a beta tester on very early projects like these, you sign a Nondisclosure Agreement. These NDAs are usually pretty tight and make clear what you are and aren’t allowed to talk about and what the consequences might be for breaking the agreement.
In the case of these leaks, it seems that the leak actually went against not only the NDA the users in question signed when they started working with the firm handling the testing but against Microsoft’s End User License Agreement as well. The firm, VMC, sent out a letter to all its testers in the wake of the leak, stating that Microsoft has permanently disabled the Xbox Live accounts of the users in question, as well as any accounts unfortunate enough to be on the system at the time. Additionally, the console itself has been “for a period of time… depending on the severity of the offense” made unusable.
The statement from VMC is a bit misleading, however, as it suggests that the consoles were “bricked,” or rendered unable to play games. That’s not exactly the case, however.
Microsoft said the following in a statement to Kotaku:
What it boils down to is that the Xbox One in question would then be an offline device. It can play games, but it can’t download patches, use multiplayer functions, or take advantage of system updates. These might seem like extreme measures, but in this case it’s a pretty extreme offense (so far as video games are concerned). As consumers, we want to know everything we can about games as early as possible, but there are tons of reasons we don’t see stuff until it’s ready. Testers sign NDAs to protect not just the companies that own the properties, but the workers making the games and the testers as well. Leaking an unannounced game puts the game’s financial potential at risk and that kind of thing can have a cascading effect.
These are the kinds of measures reserved for things that break laws and legal contracts or endanger the security of the Xbox Live service. They aren’t the kind of thing regular users are ever going to see. It’s a good reminder, though, that if you get into a beta test – something not part of a pre-order bundle or something like that, generally – it’s a good idea to see what you’re agreeing to by clicking “I accept.”