Reports are coming in from all over the internet that eagerly awaited FPS Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is in the hands of some gamers before its official release date of November 8. While it began with piracy reports from last week, since then, it's been reported that some K-Mart stores inadvertently sold copies of the game early for a bit yesterday. Reportedly, some indie game stores are selling the game too, and judging from craigslist and eBay listings, there are more than a few people out there who have gotten their hands on the game and are eager to make a profit on it, with some asking for a cool thousand bucks for the game, and some recent auctions ending even higher than that. Over $1500 for a video game? Seriously? Who has that kind of money?
While it's not surprising that a new game would street a bit early in a limited way, it's interesting to consider what game companies could (or should) do about it. It doesn't seem feasible for early sales to be prevented entirely, short of not shipping the game to retailers until launch day, and I don't see how early sales really hurt anyone that seriously -- after all, the game is still being purchased -- but it's a bit of a problem for the game industry. It messes with their carefully considered release schedule, and could easily be seen to hurt the feelings of the masses who don't manage to get an early copy.
Our official position is "Don't play the game early," but it got me thinking about what ramification there could actually be for early adopters. So what will happen to you and your account if you play Modern Warfare 3 early?
Short answer: No one has said.
"For those asking about MW3 pre-release play: If your copy is legit and obtained legitly, have fun. It's a great game."
Then later clarified, tweeting:
"dblchk'd with Activision. Mw3 pre-release play not authorized. So pls be patient. Playing early may impact your account!"
But how, exactly, would early play impact one's account? I've requested some further clarification from both Activision and Toulouse, but haven't heard back. When/if I do, I'll update this. But until then, you'll find my best guesses below:
I seriously doubt anyone will be banned from PSN or Live over playing the game early. It would be really unfair to penalize anyone from playing the game early. After all, many people don't have video game release dates memorized, and if one of these people walked into a K-Mart yesterday and thought, "Oh, sweet! Modern Warfare 3!" and played the game at home, would anyone really ban his account? It could happen, I guess, but it seems pretty unfair. Besides, I doubt Microsoft or Sony would implement a policy where they alienate their users (and separate themselves from their subscription fees) by outright banning accounts for something like that.
I doubt stats will be reset for early adopters either. While it wouldn't be impossible to reset these statistics, I can't see a set of circumstances where that would happen. Again, why would legitimate, legal purchasers of the game be punished even in this relatively small way? Although it could still happen.
More than just common sense, my opinion is born out by past experience: Very similar situations have happened around the launch of other AAA games, and as far as I have heard, nothing was done to early adopters.
That having been said, if you're playing a pirated or cracked copy of Modern Warfare 3, or any other game, God help you. You deserve all the punishment and derision that can be heaped upon you. You probably set out to intentionally do wrong, and little mercy should be shown to you.
If you buy a copy of this (or any other) game from craigslist, eBay, or from some other gray market or unverified source, you could be purchasing a pirated copy of the game without knowing it so be sure to keep a close eye on the sources of your software!
In conclusion: The safest bet is buy your games from legit sources, and just sit tight until midnight on Monday night -- you never know what can happen. So check out some previews on G4tv.com, and chill. Wait it out. But if you can't resist, play the single-player with the Ethernet cable unplugged and don't stress too hard: It'll probably be cool... but don't hold me responsible for any consequences -- I don't need that on my head.