When we reached out to Microsoft for a comment, the company told Business Insider that it's not conducting payola schemes on YouTube.
Here was the initial statement the company supplied:
This partnership between Machinima and Microsoft was a typical marketing partnership to promote the Xbox One in December. The Xbox team does not review any specific content or provide feedback on content. Any confidentiality provisions, terms or other guidelines are standard documents provided by Machinima. For clarity, confidentiality relates to the agreements themselves, not the existence of the promotion.
We wrote yesterday that the text copy of a document purporting to be Microsoft's legal agreement for the campaign required video creators to not say anything negative about Machinima, Xbox or any of its games.
At first, Microsoft told Business Insider that it is not telling YouTubers what they could say; that the confidentiality agreement applied only to describing the legal agreement itself; and that it was not a ban on disclosing the payments that generated the content. Now, Microsoft issued a new statement distancing itself further from this alleged scheme.
Microsoft was not aware of individual contracts Machinima had with their content providers as part of this promotion, and we didn’t provide feedback on any of the videos. We have asked Machinima to not post any additional Xbox One content as part of this media buy, and we have asked them to add disclaimers to the videos that were part of this program indicating they were part of paid advertising.
The updated statement claims Microsoft was not aware of individual contracts and continues to emphasize that it played no role in offering feedback on these reviews. Also, Microsoft explains that it asked Machinima to not post additional content related to the console, as well as requiring that reviewers add a disclaimer that they are part of this campaign if they do.