The street date and review embargo for Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 have been trampled by consumers and media clamouring to get their hands on the most-anticipated game this year.
After copies of the game began turning up early from online retailers such as The Hut, stores in the UK and the US began selling the game to those that had pre-ordered or were simply determined enough to hunt down a lenient retailer
"This past weekend, GameStop made the decision to break street date and sell reserved copies of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in select markets where other retailers had broken street date," said the retailer in a statement to Kotaku. "Our decision followed many conversations with Activision and was an effort to protect our customer base."
Infinity Ward's Rob Bowling responded that "Any store selling Modern Warfare 2 early is in violation of street date. There are no 'special permissions'," adding "That said, we won't punish players for it."
Determined consumers weren't going to be stopped by any street date, with online forums and social networking sites full of users claiming to buy and play copies of the game.
"Found somewhere selling MW2 surprisingly easily," tweeted Jon Hicks, editor of Official Xbox 360 Magazine in the UK. "They've sold out of Xbox 360 copies, though."
"Just bought a copy of Modern Warfare 2 from a shop with impressive disregard for official release dates," wrote The Guardian's Charlie Brooker on Twitter. "It's the PS3 version. Wanted the X360 but they'd sold out."
"Driving across town for a game that's not technically supposed to be on sale yet," offered Ben Fritz of the LA Times, although he later noted that, "Modern Warfare 2 disc has suddenly become unreadable. Punishment for buying it at a store that broke embargo?"
Bowling pointed out over the weekend that "if you bought a retail copy on PC, you can play it on 11.10.09," but that hasn't stopped console owners completing the game and posting impressions across the web.
Activision has tried to keep a tight lid on the specialist press, with journalists in the UK having to play the game in a controlled environment and reviews embargoed until 8:01am on Tuesday despite the game launching at midnight tonight.
But full video walkthroughs of the entire single-player game have already appeared online, leaving many to question the relevance of the publisher's controlled PR and marketing approach.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 officially goes on sale tomorrow morning, with retailers such as HMV, GAME and Gamestation opening for midnight events this evening.