A stolen copy of the latest sequel in one of the top-selling video game series of all time began circulating on the Web late Wednesday, the second high-profile game theft in a week.
Game publisher Take-Two Interactive Software confirmed that a purloined copy of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," set for commercial release next week, is making the rounds of "warez" sites used to swap pirated software.
The publisher vowed in a statement to track down the thieves but said the piracy wouldn't affect the game's Oct. 26 retail debut.
"The proper authorities are investigating the theft and are continuing to investigate all possible leads to ensure there is no further dissemination of our creative content," according to the statement. "Downloading, possession and distribution of 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,' including making the game available on the Internet, is theft. We take the theft of our intellectual property very seriously, and we are and will continue to diligently and aggressively pursue this matter."
The "Grand Theft Auto" franchise has spawned four games, the most recent of which, "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City," has sold more than 12 million copies and attracted ongoing criticism for its graphic portrayals of street crime and violence.
The new installment is expected to be one of the year's biggest game releases and a sorely needed cash cow for Take-Two, which has reported growing quarterly losses this year.
The theft isn't expected to affect sales significantly. Copies of the pirated game could only be run on a PlayStation 2 game console equipped with a "mod chip," a gray-market add-on that defeats copy protection circuitry in the machine.
Microsoft faced a similar theft last week, when a purloined French copy of "Halo 2," a sequel to the top-selling game for its Xbox console, showed up on warez sites.
Because of the mod chip issue, neither heist is likely to have anywhere near the effect of last year's theft of the source code for PC game "Half-Life 2," which forced a lengthy delay in the game's release to rework the code.