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Modern Warfare 2: Early Sales and a Pirate Caught

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has been gracing the news nearly every day since the announcement of lack of dedicated server support. It’s no different on the eve of its release.

Reports are surfacing that some naughty GameStops in OH, NY, and PA are breaking the street date and letting rabid fans get their hands on a copy early. Robert Bowling put a kabosh on PC users dreams of an early view of the game by Tweeting: “If you bought a retail copy on PC, you can play it on 11.10.09.” It seems PC play may have been clamped down due to illegal versions flooding torrents.

An arrest of an 18 year-old was made after investigators followed the pirate trail. It started with a Craigslist post two weeks ago for Modern Warfare 2 Xbox 360 bundles. Blizzard called in IPCybercrime to put a stop in the leak. Investigators called the Craigslist poster and negotiated a price and a meeting when another listing popped up. Investigators used social networking sites to reveal that the first seller and second seller were friends, and the second seller had his job listing as a “box boy at a major retail chain.” When approached, the Craiglist sellers admitted they had stolen a crate from the stockroom at a retail store. The investigators turned them both over to loss prevention at the chain to deal with the theft.

It was then discovered that a user, cdelamo815, had posted a message on regarding the Xbox 360 bundles. cdelamo815 was asking for donations to buy one, and would in turn provide people who had donated with a copy of the game. Investigators started off by looking at social networking sites, trying to match the email the user used with an account. They found an anonymous Facebook account using the email address that offered “modding services”. The account listed a cell phone number for customers to text. Investigators contacted the person via text message and negotiated a business deal. At one point they even got the user to call them with a cell phone, from which they were able to obtain a business address. Meanwhile, the user has posted on the forum that they were able to get a copy of the game and began making copies. The copying process uses a ripping code flashed onto an Xbox 360. A few days later, digital copies of Modern Warfare 2 began flooding torrents.

A closer look at the business address revealed it belonged to suspects father. They determined that the hacker was indeed the son of this business owner; an 18 year old known modder that had a site for selling modded Xbox 360 hard disks on, an eBay-like site. The modder advertised 250-gigabyte Western Digital hard drives, loaded with 125 copied games to be burned onto disks for Xbox 360, for $150

The business deal sting operation went off without a hitch. The modder sent a “runner” to make the delivery. The “runner” gave investigators a disk with the Modern Warfare 2 limited edition image on it meaning the modder was not only capable of making pirated digital copies on DVDs, he was also sophisticated enough to know how to make disks look like legitimate copies. On his Twitter account, the modder was in a conversation with an underground hologram maker (holograms can be used to make the disks look like legitimate copies of the game). After interrogating the “runner”, police were lead to the home of the 18 year old modder who was then arrested.

The whole operation was fast-moving and took less than a week, but was still not in time to prevent massive copying of the game on torrents.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is expected to be one of the best-selling games of the year. It will be available tomorrow, November 10th for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.