Microsoft is targeting video gamers playing pirated copies of its forthcoming title Halo 4.

Several users have already had their Xbox Live accounts "permanently suspended", preventing them from being used to access multiplayer games via the internet.

The firm has also indicated that some might face tougher punishments.

The latest Halo game is not due for release until 6 November. An early leak of its code threatens to limit sales.

"We are aware of isolated cases in which Halo 4 content has been propped on the web and are working closely with our security teams and law enforcement to address the situation immediately," Microsoft said in a statement.

"Consumers should be aware that piracy is illegal and we take vigorous action against illegal activity related to our products and services."

Although there is nothing to prevent users with blocked accounts from creating new ones, Microsoft has said it might also enforce "console bans" designed to permanently prevent targeted machines accessing its network.

BBC News