The news that Halo 4 has leaked onto the internet two weeks before the retail launch is really a surprise to nobody. Highly anticipated titles have leaked before, and those with the determination and willingness to circumvent the law and Microsoft’s policies will usually find a way. Unfortunately, as with all cases of piracy, there is a cost and a negative impact to both the publishers and developers. While some might split hairs over the morality of these actions, it is piracy and stealing, and one cannot blame Microsoft for wanting to take action. Well, that’s exactly what they have done with those who have obtained pirated pre-release versions of Halo 4. If you’re among those people or considering joining them, this article will hopefully serve as a cautionary tale.

Microsoft has provisions in their “Terms of Use” policy that allows for accounts to be banned or otherwise penalized for a number of infractions, including modding your console and playing pirated games. In some cases, they can reset your gamerscore if you are found to be using hacks to illegitimately unlock in-game achievements, or suspend your account for repeated conduct violations. In the case of whose who are found to be playing the pirated version of Halo 4, many have incurred permanent console and user profile bans without warning. Those affected have received notices from the “LIVE Enforcement Team” stating that their account has been permanently suspended. The wording is a bit dubious, since it could imply a temporary suspension or a permanent ban. Either way, it’s not good.

It should be noted that the pirated version only allows gamers access to the single player content. The online multiplayer functionality has not yet gone live, so one of the key selling points of the game is not even available. However, the allure of playing the new Halo game before anyone else is proving too tempting for some. Videos are popping up all over YouTube, many of which include plot spoilers, and discussion threads are abuzz with people boasting about their experiences with the game. This enthusiasm may be short lived. Even if you aren’t playing online, the pirated version of Halo 4 is permanently linked to your Xbox Live account. If you think you’re escaping notice by simply not logging in, it will still be visible when you eventually do.

In short, buy the game legitimately. In doing so, you support the developers and you can avoid running afoul of Microsoft’s anti-piracy measures. Besides, the benefit you might get from playing Halo 4 a few weeks early is minimal compared to the risk you take. Having your account banned also means losing previously earned gamerscore points, your Xbox Live subscription can be revoked without compensation and other perks may be lost as well. The source of the Halo 4 leak is unknown at this time, but Microsoft is keeping an eye out for those who are playing it. We advise against being one of those people.

Halo 4 is due for a legitimate release on November 6, 2012, exclusively for the Xbox 360.