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Xbox 360 update hurts COD, Halo pirates

But for how long?

Microsoft's new Xbox 360 dashboard update adds "boot to disc" functionality and visually tweaks gamercards. But an undisclosured feature is new anti-piracy measures for Call of Duties Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops, and Halo: Reach.

Back in November we discussed how the Kinect dash locked out pirates from games such as Fable III and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. Discs recieved new coding that would be looked for when the game was put inside an Xbox 360. Pirated or burned games are imperfect copies of the original, and the lack of this new AP 2.5 coding prevented them from loading. Not only that, the console was flagged for a ban on Xbox Live.

These AP 2.5 elements were first found on the FIFA 09 disc in 2008. Back then, however, the game didn't take full advantage of the coding. It's now clear that this was no one-time experiment, as AP 2.5 now appears in new game releases.

Microsoft's latest Xbox 360 Dashboard update forces through the requisite checks for its most popular online games – the two most recent Call of Duty titles - Warfare 2, Black Ops - and Halo: Reach.

This serves two purposes for Microsoft. These are by far the most popular Live-enabled Xbox 360 games, and anti-piracy measures help protect from potential cheats. Secondly, it is the quickest way to target a large volume of users using pirated software.

Expect the mighty Microsoft banhammer to descend soon.

But in the end it may be the hackers and pirates with the last cackle. The latest piracy-enabling DVD drive firmware contains counter-measures of its own, locking up the console if AP 2.5 is detected and no spoofed codes are on the burned disc. This seems to have the effect of freezing the 360 before the console is flagged for a ban. If this is indeed the case, new pirate releases of the games in question with injected AP 2.5 codes could counteract Microsoft's new initiative.

The news should please Infinity Ward, however, which recently went on the record lambasting Sony's jailbroken PS3 for the amount of cheating going on in Modern Warfare 2.

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About the Author
Richard Leadbetter avatar

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.