Representatives from Microsoft have confirmed that they have stepped up attempts to crack down on users making modifications to Xbox consoles. The new scheme began just prior to the launch of Halo 2
, with an online crackdown on cheating apparently being a prime motivation - as well as the usual concerns over piracy.
Xbox general manager Cameron Ferroni has indicated that the company is not interested in suing individual users, but those it believes are manufacturing pirated games or mass-producing Xbox modifications.
Although there are a number of more 'legitimate' applications for Xbox, including a version of popular free operating system Linux, it's fairly easy to store full Xbox titles on the hard drive of a modded console. Therefore, Microsoft has been harsh in prosecuting those who sell mod chips, with U.S. citizen David Rocci sentenced to five months in jail in late 2003 for breaching the DMCA in openly selling 'illegal copyright circumvention devices'.
Since most such activities remove the ability to use Xbox Live on the same console without being banned, Microsoft is unable to get a clear picture of the total number of users using hardware modifications, but the percentage is still thought to be small across the whole user base.
Nonetheless, this new Microsoft anti-piracy activity is thought to make using modded consoles online even more difficult, meaning that mod chip users will be increasingly unlikely to enjoy the online modes of Halo 2
without being banned from Xbox Live.