Microsoft is currently facing an unprecedented leak of confidential plans and conversations around both the recent past and coming future of Xbox. Sensitive documents meant only for the eyes of the court involved in the Federal Trade Commission’s failed battle to stop Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard were accidentally uploaded to public servers, revealing plans for Xbox Series X/S console refreshes in 2024, a remaster of the beloved open-world RPG Fallout 3, and more. Who’s to blame? Microsoft, apparently.
The last batch of redacted exhibits in the historic legal battle were finally made public on the Northern District Court of California’s servers on September 14. News began spilling out earlier this week about Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick’s take on Switch 2 hardware specs as well as Microosft’s plans to release its 10th generation console in 2028. On September 19, however, a ResetEra user discovered that one of the PDF files actually contained hidden, unredacted exhibits exposing confidential email exchanges, PowerPoint presentations, and meeting notes.
These leaked materials offer the most candid inside look yet at what’s been going on behind closed doors at Xbox from 2019 to 2022. The leaked documents detail cost estimates for getting games like Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and Assassin’s Creed Mirage onto Game Pass, plans for new controllers, hardware, and operating systems, as well as Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer’s thoughts on trying to acquire Warner Bros. Games, Valve, and even Nintendo. All together, these leaks constitute a massive breach in an industry that often operates at heightened and sometimes ridiculous levels of secrecy.
Some Xbox fans, who are loyal to and defensive of the brand in ways often reserved for hometown sports teams, immediately started to blame the FTC. There was speculation that the regulatory agency, or some rogue member within its ranks, uploaded the wrong version of the files as payback for losing its anti-trust case against the tech giant. The agency, however, was quick to dismiss those rumors.
“The FTC was not responsible for uploading Microsoft’s plans for its games and consoles to the court website,” tweeted Douglas Farrar, director of its Office of Public Affairs. He later shared a new court order released by the judge in the case, Jacqueline Scott Corley. It called for both the FTC and Microsoft to meet again to go over the issues with exhibits, and placed the blame squarely on the latter for the latest leak.
“The Court ordered the parties to meet and confer and provide the Court with a secure cloud link to the admitted exhibits with the redactions set forth in the Court’s orders,” she wrote. “Microsoft provided the link on September 14 and the Court uploaded the exhibits to [the] internet page established for this case.”
Following today’s leak, the court nuked every remaining document pertaining to the FTC case from its server, something it did previously after an earlier batch of documents was uploaded with missing redactions. It’s unclear when the exhibits will return in their correctly redacted forms, but for everyone who follows the video game industry closely it won’t matter, as copies of the documents are already circulating far and wide.
Microsoft has yet to publicly acknowledge the historic breach, or comment on its contents. Spencer and other members of the Xbox team are headed to Japan this week for the 2023 Tokyo Game Show, where it will livestream a showcase on September 21.
Update 09/19/2023 4:45 p.m. ET: Spencer tweeted about the leaks late in the day, writing that it is “hard to see our team’s work shared in this way because so much has changed and there’s so much to be excited about right now, and in the future.”
He said Xbox will share its “real plans” when it’s ready.