A Microsoft contract employee who spoke on record in Dean Takahashi’s in-depth look at the red ring of death fiasco has, shockingly, been fired.
Robert Delaware was a game and hardware tester at VMC, a Microsoft contractor. In 2006, he found a crash bug that could be duplicated on every game he tested. “If you coordinated the music player with the dashboard, you could get almost every 360 to lock up,” he said in the VentureBeat report. “I did it first on a combo DVD/audio disk. With NBA 2K6, you would select the music. The screen went black.” Delaware added that he believed “at least some” of the problems associated with Dead Rising were attributable to an Xbox Live dashboard update embedded in the game, and that the practice of including dashboard updates in games was also responsible for other hardware failures.
Takahashi wrote that Delaware was aware of the risks he faced in speaking on record, and he ran headlong into those risks on September 10 when he was informed that he was being let go because of the article. Delaware told VentureBeat that he also expected to face civil charges from VMC and Microsoft, presumably for breaking the non-disclosure agreement he was almost certainly subject to, but nonetheless says he doesn’t regret speaking up, calling it “the moral thing to do.” Of the potential civil action, he added, “I’ll fight it. If they want to come after me, bring it on.”
Moral it may be, but going on record with his comments was practically begging VMC to fire him. Non-disclosure agreements are legally binding contracts, and companies like Microsoft don’t put them in place just because their lawyers have families to feed. It’s difficult to fathom his motivation to tempt fate like this, as it would have been just as easy for him to speak anonymously, as several other sources did. Regardless of whether he felt an attributable source would carry more weight or he just wanted his 15 minutes, he blatantly broke the terms of his NDA, and if Microsoft wants such agreements to be taken seriously in the future, it’s obligated to do something about it. If he’s lucky, he’ll be fired, the whole thing will blow over and a few months down the road he’ll get a job testing for EA; if he’s unlucky, Microsoft will decide to make an example of him, and pursue the matter to its most punitive conclusion. “Bring it on” is a great sound bite, but as recent history has shown, not always the best choice of words for an uncertain future.