Forget the Leak, Halo: Reach Was Downloadable

By  |  Monday, August 23, 2010 at 9:35 am

If you lack scruples, you might be interested to know that some hackers found an early version of Halo: Reach on Xbox Live, stole it, and put the code on file-sharing websites.

Personally, I can wait until Halo: Reach’s September 14 launch date. What piqued my interest was the means by which the hackers took the game.

PC World’s Matt Peckham writes that Microsoft uploaded Halo: Reach to a hidden section of Xbox Live for a select group of journalists, giving them a chance to thoroughly play the game before an agreed-upon date on which everyone runs their reviews. The game was priced at 99,999 Microsoft Points, or $1,250, and journalists presumably were given special access so they wouldn’t have to pay. The hackers from GameTuts found the game and bypassed the payment system on their own.

I’m familiar with the early review copy — occasionally, a game shows up in my mailbox — but I’ve never heard of these games going out for download from virtual storefronts. Now I’m wondering when we’ll see Microsoft release its latest games directly to the Xbox Live Marketplace, without the disc.

Microsoft and Sony are both dabbling in boxed game downloads for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, respectively, but only for older games. For new releases, they defer to brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers. This strikes me as odd given the scorn publishers pile on the used game business, and the limitations they try to impose on it. Maybe disrupting the old business model would bring too many repercussions, or maybe the demand for new game downloads would be too much of a bandwidth burden.

The existence of Halo: Reach in downloadable form — even for a tiny group of people — brings hope that some day, the role of downloadable console games will expand beyond small-scale indie games and back catalogs. Used game buyers will always prefer retail, but I look forward to a time when getting the next Halo requires only the press of a button.

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