Microsoft to replace copies of 'Halo 3'


SEATTLE -- Just hours after die-hard fans finally got their hands on a copy of "Halo 3," blogs brimmed with reports that special limited-edition packaging is scratching the video game disks.

While the scratches don't appear to be keeping gamers from playing the last installment of the popular trilogy, it's a rough patch that Microsoft Corp., which has faced several Xbox 360 glitches in recent months, could have lived without.

Microsoft, which owns the studio that makes the Xbox-only "Halo 3," responded quickly on its Xbox Web site with details for a replacement program. Customers can fill out a form and send in their scratched limited-edition disks for a free exchange through the end of December.

"We have identified that there are some instances of blemishes on discs as a result of the packaging," said Microsoft spokesman David Dennis in an e-mailed statement. "This is a small fraction of the total number of Halo 3 games shipped and sold, and is a limited production version of the game."

Microsoft is selling the limited-edition version, which comes in a tin with bonus behind-the-scenes features and a making-of-the-game documentary, for $70. A regular copy of the game costs $60, and a "legendary" version, which comes with a replica of the helmet worn by game protagonist Master Chief, costs $130. The game officially went on sale early Tuesday.

Richard Mitchell, the lead writer of the Xbox 360 Fanboy blog, said one of the disks that came in his limited-edition set is scratched but the damage didn't seem to interfere with its playing.

The AP received several review copies of "Halo 3" in limited-edition tins. Both the game disk and an "essentials" disk had come loose from plastic housing designed to keep them in place. The game disk had been scratched but seemed to work fine.

"It sounds like it's just an aesthetic thing, though who wants to pay full price for something scratched?" said Brian Crescente, managing editor of Gawker Media's video game blog.

Microsoft has been plagued by Xbox 360 problems in recent months. In July, the software maker said it would spend more than $1 billion to repair broken Xbox 360 consoles, and in August it disclosed that some Wireless Racing Wheel game controllers were overheating and smoking.

Since its launch, the Xbox 360 has outsold Sony Corp.'s next-generation PlayStation 3 console, but it hasn't been as popular as Nintendo Corp.'s Wii. Investors and analysts are watching whether Microsoft can turn a profit in the division that makes the Xbox 360. Microsoft, which expects to hit that milestone in the current fiscal year, has said "Halo 3" is one part of its strategy for reaching that goal.