"Halo 2," the sequel to Microsoft Corp.'s best-selling game for its Xbox video console, has leaked onto the Internet nearly four weeks before its planned sale, the world's largest software maker said Friday.
"Microsoft has learned that a version of 'Halo 2' has been posted to various newsgroups and web sites," Carlos de Leon, Xbox group product manager, said in an e-mailed statement, "We consider downloading this code or making it available for others to download as theft."
Microsoft, which is investigating the leak, said that it would stick to its November 9 launch date for "Halo 2." (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)
Hit game titles, and their often successful sequels, are crucial for video game makers such as Microsoft and Sony Corp. since they help drive sales of consoles and in turn other games. Bungie, the Microsoft-owned developers of the original "Halo," has sold more than 4 million units since its November 2001 release.
The pirated copy of "Halo 2" was a French language version that could be downloaded and burned onto a DVD disc. "Half-life 2" and "Doom 3," other popular games, have also been pirated before their release.