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Microsoft takes on Gears of War Xbox One leakers

Suspends Xbox Live accounts.

Microsoft has taken action against those who leaked the Gears of War Xbox One remaster.

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Recently members of a video game test company called VMC Games were able to play the Gears of War remaster, rumoured to be called Gears of War: Ultimate, ahead of an expected announcement at E3 in June.

Those members were playing the game under a strict non-disclosure agreement common in the video game industry. But that failed to prevent word of the game - and even videos - from appearing on the internet.

Yesterday, Kotaku reported on an email sent by VMC Games to its members explaining what had happened. Here's an interesting snippet that provides some insight into the origin of the leak:

  • 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.

The email also warned that Microsoft had taken action against those responsible for the leaks by rendering their consoles "unusable". This is where things get interesting. VMC's wording suggested Microsoft was able to remotely "brick" an Xbox One - something we didn't think Microsoft had the ability to do.

Here's the relevant part of the email:

  • 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 offense, their Xbox One is entirely unusable.

"Entirely unusable" is the problematic phrase here, and it appears VMC may have over-stepped the mark, because in a statement released to media following Kotaku's report, Microsoft countered VMC's email, stressing the Xbox Ones affected continue to work offline.

Here's the statement:

  • To be clear, if a console is suspended from Xbox Live for a violation of the Terms of Use, it can still be used offline. Microsoft enforcement action does not result in a console becoming unusable. Suspensions for both consoles and accounts are determined by looking at a number of factors. To avoid enforcement action including suspension from the service, users should follow the Xbox Live Terms of Use and Code of Conduct.

The upshot is it seems Microsoft cannot "brick" an Xbox One remotely, but it can stop online functionality by blocking access to Xbox Live - for an undisclosed period of time determined by Microsoft itself.

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