Back in March 2013, a guy from Florida named Jia Li ordered a new laptop from the Microsoft Store. When the package finally arrived, he noticed that it looked very strange, having a lot of security tape around it. Upon opening it, he was surprised to find out that it contained what seemed to be an Xbox One.
But wait, hold on a minute. The Xbox One didn't really exist at the time yet, as the console was only announced two months later, and it officially launched eight months after Li got his package.
According to Ben Gilbert at Business Insider, who broke the story yesterday - over three years later - Microsoft stored the device at a shipping facility, which was supposedly the same department that shipped Li's laptop. While this measure of storing the prototypes alongside normal stock was reportedly intended to 'throw off Microsoft's own employees', some sort of mishap eventually led to the pre-production Xbox One arriving at Li's doorstep.
The box didn't include the whole Xbox One package however; it lacked the controller, as well as a Kinect. It also came with many international plugs, probably so the console could be sent anywhere in the world. Curious, he plugged in the console into his TV, and was greeted by a 'Kryptos' message on the screen. 'Kryptos' is one of the codenames used for the Xbox One, other than 'Durango.'
Li knew at this point that he struck gold, so he sent a tip to Engadget with the title "I have the xbox 720 krytos [sic] console beta version," together with a few images. He ended up talking to a Microsoft representative who retrieved the confidential console. The representative then gave him an Xbox 360 with Kinect to make up for the trouble, along with the laptop he ordered.
In a report by Kotaku, it was later revealed that Engadget kept silent regarding the console as they had negotiated with Microsoft to get an exclusive on the Xbox One. “After receiving the box in March 2013, Jia Li wanted to either sell it or return it to Microsoft (to get the laptop he ordered!),” Gilbert stated, who was then writing for the AOL-owned company. He added:
“We weren’t going to buy it. So we facilitated returning the box to Microsoft in exchange for exclusive, early access to the Xbox One. The condition of that exclusive: not writing about the story of Microsoft losing the Xbox One. It’s been three years. I’m no longer at Engadget. The people who worked with me at Engadget on the deal are no longer at Engadget. It felt like the right time.”
No comment has been made by the Redmond giant regarding the story.
Microsoft is now preparing its next-gen console, codenamed 'Project Scorpio,' which will arrive in 2017. It also unveiled the Xbox One S back in June, featuring a smaller build, but with improved internals over its predecessor.