Microsoft has launched an investigation into the leak of a version of Bungie's forthcoming Xbox title Halo 2, which has made its way onto Internet piracy sites and newsgroups almost a month before the title is due to launch.
The pirate copy of the game, which is thought to have begun circulating last night, claims to be a PAL version with French text, suggesting that it may have been leaked during the localisation process for the hugely anticipated game.
"Microsoft has learned that a version of Halo 2 has been posted to various newsgroups and web sites," the company said in a statement this morning. "We consider downloading this code or making it available for others to download as theft."
"We are currently investigating the source of this leak with the appropriate authorities," the statement continued. "Microsoft takes the integrity of its intellectual property extremely seriously, and we are aggressively pursuing the source of this illegal act."
However, perhaps mindful of the debacle last year where Valve appeared to blame the leak of Half-Life 2 source code and materials onto the Internet for a major delay to the game, Microsoft has also moved to reassure customers that the game will still arrive on November 9th to 11th worldwide - saying simply that "the launch of Halo 2 worldwide remains unaffected."
While the leak of the game is certainly embarrassing for Microsoft, the huge size of the file - almost three gigabytes - and the fact that it won't be possible to play the pirate version on Xbox Live mean that it's unlikely to seriously impact sales of Halo 2, which remains on track to become one of the biggest-selling titles of the year.