Halo 3 arrives in North America Tuesday, September 25. Europe receives the highly anticipated shooter the following day, September 26.
Update: A Microsoft rep has clarified to Pro-G that it will only ban the Xbox Live accounts of Microsoft employees playing Halo 3 early. Regular consumers will not, as previously reported and feared, be sacrificing their Xbox Live privileges due to the blessed negligence of retailers.
Original Story: With a game as eagerly anticipated as Bungie's Halo 3 being shipped to retailers worldwide in advance of its next week's release, it's no surprise that a few resourceful folk are going to get their hands on it early. Chalk it up to the persuasive powers of smooth talking or the much more likely scenario of some poor hapless employee not paying attention to the bajillionth green Xbox 360 game case they've seen, but it's going to happen one way or another.
In fact, broken street dates are a relatively common occurrence in the realm of video games. It happens just about every time a game goes off to stores before it can be sold. It happened to 2K Boston/2K Australia's BioShock, it regularly happens to EA Tiburon's yearly Madden release, it's happened to countless other releases. It even happened to Halo 2.
However, Microsoft appears to be taking a much more confrontational stance than most this time around. According to Pro-G, the company will be punishing gamers for the mistakes of their local retailers. The site reports that anyone caught playing Halo 3 before its official release will be banned from Xbox Live.
So just unplug that ethernet cable or wireless adapter, right? Wrong. Thanks to the persistent stat-tracking of the Xbox 360's gamer profile, which includes the oh-so-beloved achievements, Microsoft will be able to deduce exactly when Halo 3 entered the console. If that date happens to be before the region's Halo 3 street date, Pro-G claims the account will be terminated.
That said, there is at least one niggling question in the Shacknews collective consciousness. We're pretty sure that changing the date on an Xbox won't work, as you'd have to turn the clock back at some point and the system might freak out about achievements and play times from the future, but what about the legions of gaming journalists that assumedly have retail copies of the game for review purposes?
Pro-G reports that Microsoft is in the midst of preparing an official statement. In the mean time, Shacknews has contacted Microsoft for more information on the matter.