According to a report on Ars Technica, Microsoft and Machinima colluded to get Machinima YouTube content creators to say nice things about the Xbox One for money and required that they not disclose the financial relationship to viewers.
According to the report, YouTube users were offered cash by Microsoft to speak positively of Xbox One and include footage of Xbox One games in their videos. The initiative was first advertised by to Machinima users via an email. While sponsoring a video is a normal affair on YouTube, what Microsoft allegedly asked of YouTube video makers was not: the company wanted the payment and the relationship to be kept quiet. In fact, silence was part of the agreement.
Once content creators signed up for the program, Microsoft promised to pay participants an additional $3 per thousand video views. The deal was organized through Machinima and offered to its video partners via email. The program was also promoted via a now-deleted Twitter message by Machinima's UK community manager. Videos had to include at least 30 seconds of Xbox One gameplay and have the user mention Microsoft's console by name. A user then needed to tag the video "XB1M13" for Microsoft to find it and verify it. The deal's full agreement reveals that users also had to promise to "not say anything negative or disparaging about Machinima, Xbox One, or any of its Games."
Under the terms of the deal, according to the report, Microsoft only promised to pay for the scheme's first 1.25 million views – a milestone which was passed on January 16 – two days after the promotion began.
The Ars Technica report goes on to point out that – ethics aside – it may run afoul of Federal Trade Commission guidelines. The FTC guidelines say that promotional content must disclose "a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement," something which could arguably be applied here.
Both Machinima and Microsoft have not publicly commented on this story. We'll have more on this story as it develops.