Beware pirated copies of new Halo game

Xbox Live gamers playing pirated copies of Microsoft's forthcoming Halo 4 are being threatened with account suspension and other penalties.

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Some have already had their Xbox Live accounts "permanently suspended", meaning that they are unable to access multiplayer games via the internet.

Halo 4, due for release on November 6, could see its sales reduced if code is leaked early. It will cost £50 … but will be discounted by many retailers.

A Microsoft statement reads: "We are aware of isolated cases in which Halo 4 content has been propped on the web and are working closely with our security teams and law enforcement to address the situation immediately. Consumers should be aware that piracy is illegal and we take vigorous action against illegal activity related to our products and services."

Users with blocked accounts can simply create new ones, however Microsoft has threatened to enforce "console bans" designed to permanently prevent targeted machines accessing its network.

The game was first leaked on the internet over the weekend, allowing others to copy and play it. Video clips have also been posted online, stealing the thunder of the new launch.

It used to be difficult for game software publishers to track piracy, but the advent of Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs or MMOs) makes it easy to carry out checks on the software when a user first connects to the console maker's servers after a new title is launched.

Game publisher Ubisoft believes that up to 95% of the versions of Assassin's Creed, Driver and other of its games played on PCs had been pirated.

Ed Barton at data analysis specialist Strategy Analytics comments "One of the most effective ways both the console industry and PC market – through systems such as Valve's Steam facility – are trying to combat this is by building up a gamer's online identity. That includes creating a friends list and achievements. The threat of having this taken away can be just as devastating to a gamer as losing their Facebook account."

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