Non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, are incredibly serious in the video game industry, a lesson that several game testers learned the hard way recently. VMC Games, a contract company that does game testing, operates an at-home testing program where gamers can play big-name games before they are released to the public in order to stress test multiplayer functionality. These test cases are under strict NDAs, and those gamers aren’t allowed to say anything about the games that they’re playing to anyone.
Normally, companies like VMC do their testing in-house, with employees working in labs where they can’t leak information during the test to outsiders. The line between where you can and cannot talk about a project is pretty obvious there, but it becomes more vague out in the real world.
Several gamers in the at-home program leaked video footage of multiplayer from a remake of the Xbox 360 classic Gears of War, a clear violation of NDA. It didn’t take long for VMC and Microsoft, who contracted the company for the tests, to respond. In this case, Microsoft froze the online accounts of the players in question, meaning that they cannot use their Xbox One consoles to do anything online. This limits the machines to only playing games on disc and games that do not specifically require a connection to the internet (which is pretty common these days). Microsoft has not announced how long the ban would last.
They’ve also been terminated from VMC and, most likely, blacklisted within the industry. Violating NDA is a surefire way to never work in the video game industry again, as it frankly isn’t that big of an industry, and word travels fast. Being blacklisted from VMC means that nobody else will ever hire them as testers, and it’s pretty much impossible for them to ever work for a game company that they don’t start.