Advance copies of the aliens-versus-space marines video game "Halo 2" have already fetched as much as $265 on Internet auction site eBay, days before the official launch.
The $50 Xbox game, Microsoft Corp.'s flagship title, doesn't officially go on sale until Tuesday.
But in one eBay auction, an in-hand copy of the $55 special edition "Halo 2", which includes special packaging and a bonus DVD, sold Thursday for $265.
In a statement, Microsoft would only say it has been "working really hard to keep the 'Halo 2' plot twists a secret so everyone can have an equal opportunity to enjoy them. That will happen when the game officially goes on sale at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, November 9."
In the game, players once again assume the role of super soldier Master Chief as he and fellow combatants try to thwart an alien invasion of earth.
Reports that copies had been sold at a few stores owned by Midwest retail chain Meijer Inc. were denied by company spokesman John Zimmerman. "There is absolutely no truth to that at all," he said.
Last month, a pirated, French-language version of "Halo 2" appeared on file-sharing networks and news groups. Microsoft said it continues to investigate that case and is working with authorities to track down those responsible. It's unclear how the breach occurred.
The problems apparently haven't affected sales: more than 1.5 million copies of the game have been pre-ordered.
(MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)