Some 'Halo 3' disks scratched by packaging

Within 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.

Microsoft, which owns the studio that makes Halo 3, responded quickly on its Xbox website 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.

A Microsoft spokesman and a member of the company's outside PR firm did not immediately respond to calls and e-mails from The Associated Press requesting more information.

Microsoft is selling the limited-edition version, which comes in a tin decorated with the Halo 3 logo, 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.

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's next-generation PlayStation 3 console, but it hasn't been as popular as Nintendo'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.

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